The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) leads a munitions clearance and destruction project in Tajikistan.
Already the largest and most populous continent, Asia has the highest rate of population growth in the world. Asia also has experienced rapid economic growth and development in recent decades. However, the region has faced extreme natural disasters and internal challenges including poverty, corruption, and poor governance. Large gaps exist between the relative wealth of developed nations such as Japan and South Korea and that of developing nations, such as Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Persisting through decades of armed conflicts since World War II, explosive remnants of war affect the daily lives of people throughout Southeast Asia. The continent contains the country most heavily bombed per capita, Laos, and the world’s most heavily mined country, Afghanistan. U.S. conventional weapons destruction programs have provided more than $628 million to support mine clearance, small arms and light weapons and munitions control, and victim assistance programs throughout the region.
After decades of conflict, Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest levels of contamination from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Contamination is mainly the result of the 1979 Soviet invasion, internal armed conflict from 1992 to 2001, and the U.S.-led Coalition’s intervention in late 2001, which added considerable quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO). As of February 2013, the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA) estimated the number of hazards at 4,734, affecting over 523 million square meters (202 square miles) and 1,717 communities. Although Afghanistan boasts one of the most established mine action programs in the world, the recent release of land from Taliban strongholds has resulted in the identification of 33 additional hazardous areas. This reemphasizes the need for donor funding and increased attention to the severity of the problem affecting the civilian population and the socioeconomic success of Afghanistan as a whole.
Two disabled men are fitted with prosthetics at an orthopedic center in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Through FY2012 the United States has invested more than $271 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Afghanistan aimed at the clearance and safe disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess weapons and munitions. Directed through several Afghan and international partner organizations, this assistance has made significant progress toward restoring access to land and infrastructure, developing Afghan capacity to manage such programs independently, and protecting Afghan communities from potential risks.
In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $40,550,000 to Afghanistan for CWD programs that cleared landmines and UXO, provided mine risk education (MRE), delivered victim assistance, and enhanced host-nation capacity. More specifically, PM/WRA funded the following organizations and activities:
In FY2012, the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with HALO, continued evaluations of equipment valued at $1 million. The technologies continue to clear mines and perform technical surveys in villages and agricultural areas throughout Afghanistan. The equipment includes the Orbit Screen, which sifts mine-contaminated soil; several sifting excavator attachments; the Mantis, an armored area-preparation and mine-clearance tractor; and the Raptor, an armored tractor with the Rotary Mine Comb anti-tank mine clearance attachment. These systems have cleared more than 2,500,000 square meters (618 acres) of land and found more than 28,000 mines and items of UXO to date.
Burma suffers from extensive landmine contamination resulting from decades of internal conflict. The central government and some ethnic minority forces laid mines, and they now share the view that mines are impediments to peace and development. Reports indicate a reduction in new mine placement, though mines are still deployed in conflict areas. No complete estimate of the extent of contamination exists, although suspected hazardous areas have been identified by the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. Mines are believed to be concentrated on Burma’s borders with Bangladesh and Thailand. Explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination dating back to World War II also affects the country. From 1999 to 2011 the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor identified 3,242 casualties from landmine and ERW incidents in Burma, but total casualty numbers are unknown.
Burma is currently developing mine action standards; however, the government of Burma has not legally approved survey and clearance activities in the country at this time. The government of Burma has taken steps to permit humanitarian mine action activities and has established the Myanmar Mine Action Centre. The Ministry of Health does not distinguish mine and ERW incidents from trauma incidents, and a lack of suitable healthcare infrastructure leaves many victims without access to treatment. However, some survivors have received assistance through rehabilitation centers in Burma and near the border in Thailand.
In FY2011 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested $90,000 in a pilot program in Burma aimed at improving the lives of mine and ERW survivors and mitigating the negative impact of the country’s contamination by conducting mine risk education (MRE).
In FY2012 PM/WRA granted $828,286 in assistance to Burma for programs that provided MRE and victim assistance as follows:
Nearly three decades of armed conflict left Cambodia severely contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). During the various Indochina wars, the Khmer Rouge, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), the Vietnamese military, and to a lesser extent the Thai army, were responsible for laying extensive minefields. These minefields are especially concentrated in the western part of the country, most notably in the dense K-5 mine belt along Cambodia’s border with Thailand. The eastern and northeastern areas of Cambodia are heavily contaminated with UXO, mostly from U.S. air and artillery strikes during the Vietnam War and also from numerous land battles fought along the border with Vietnam. International donors fund more than 90 percent of mine and UXO clearance in Cambodia.
A Golden West Humanitarian Foundation team in Cambodia moves a 2,000 pound bomb, which was later destroyed.
From FY1993 to FY2012 the United States invested more than $85 million in Cambodia for clearance and safe disposal of mines and UXO, as well as to improve the lives of mine/UXO survivors and increase access to land and infrastructure.
During FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $5,493,899 to Cambodia for conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs to clear mines and UXO and provide mine risk education (MRE) and victim assistance as follows:
In FY2012 U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) deployed four subject-matter experts to Cambodia to conduct a program development visit to analyze and develop future humanitarian mine action (HMA) train-the-trainer events. In support of this mission, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Humanitarian Demining Training Center (HDTC) also deployed two subject-matter experts to Cambodia.
In addition, USPACOM conducted two HMA blast-injury training missions in Cambodia during FY2012. During the two missions, 44 Cambodian medics were trained. USPACOM funding for the program development visit and blast-injury training missions totaled $235,000. Overseas Humanitarian Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid funded HDTC travel costs, totaling $21,945.
With funding and support of both the DOS and the DOD Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, HALO and MAG continued their operations with and evaluations of the dual-sensor Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System (HSTAMIDS) in manual mine-clearance of densely cluttered minefields. During evaluations in partnership with the HD R&D Program, HSTAMIDS cleared 4.6 million square meters (1.8 square miles) of land and detected 23,000 anti-personnel mines. HSTAMIDS accurately discriminated 9.8 million detections as metallic clutter, saving 10–15 minutes of excavation for each. The HD R&D Program advanced the rapid investigation of clutter, currently performed with long-handled tools, by beginning an evaluation of the Wolverine Mine Tiller with MAG in late FY2012. The remote-controlled Wolverine is equipped with a power harrow attachment for engaging the ground and providing rapid quality assurance. The long-handled tools and Wolverine Mine Tiller follow HSTAMIDS clearance in minefields with high metallic clutter concentrations, where cleared minefields are not metal-free and require a secondary mechanical process for quality assurance and quality control.
The HD R&D Program initiated several new detection technology evaluations in Cambodia in FY2012. In mid-FY2012, HALO began an evaluation of the Minehound, a dual-sensor handheld detector that uses ground-penetrating radar and metal detection technology to locate mines and UXO. To date, the Minehound has cleared more than 130,000 square meters (32 acres) of land and found 197 mines. Also in FY2012, GWHF began intensive in-country testing and evaluation of the Luxor and Scorpion UXO detection systems. Luxor integrates UPEX large loop coils with real-time kinematic global positioning system geo-referenced mapping capability on a remote-controlled all-terrain vehicle. The system is designed to provide a quick survey of a suspected hazardous area to identify and locate buried UXO. The Scorpion is a lightweight man-portable system that complements the Luxor with its ability to operate in either the same area or in areas too small for the Luxor to operate. HD R&D will continue evaluations of the Luxor and Scorpion in Cambodia with MAG in FY2013.
In primary mechanical mine and vegetation clearance, the HD R&D Program continued operational field evaluations with HALO and MAG of the Badger tracked excavator, the Storm steep-slope excavator, the Nemesis remote-controlled skid-steer, and the Rex small remote-controlled tracked excavator. Together these technologies have cleared 561,000 square meters (139 acres) of vegetation and suspect soil, finding 869 mines and items of UXO.
The HD R&D Program, in partnership with GWHF, continued support of the innovative EHS in Cambodia. The EHS and Mobile Cutting System (MCS) process large projectiles and mines, and recast the explosive into small disposal charges for in situ mine/UXO neutralization. The MCS renders UXO safe in the field, enabling the explosive to be recovered. Together the systems have processed 14,056 items of ordnance, recovering 33,000 kilograms (72,753 pounds) of explosives for a total of 280,000 disposal charges. The effort has also recovered 89,000 kilograms (196,211 pounds) of metal for safe recycling. Total HD R&D assistance in Cambodia is valued at $4 million.
In addition to landmine contamination along its border with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan faces risks from unsecured and deteriorating weapons and munitions stockpiles remaining from the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In March 2011 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA), the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) conducted a joint survey and assessment of ammunition storage facilities in Kyrgyzstan to determine the current condition of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), conventional ammunition, and man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). While the overall physical security is of serious concern, degraded and deteriorating ammunition poses immediate danger to civilians because storage sites are located close to populated areas. In all cases, storage facilities were in such poor condition that they provided only minimum protection from adverse weather. This, in turn, adds to the risk of explosive residue from decaying ammunition contaminating soil and water tables around storage sites. Professional training and financial assistance can mitigate the imminent threat of a depot explosion.
In February 2012 the United States expressed its pledge to provide funding to OSCE-Bishkek to support a Kyrgyzstani physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) program. In FY2012 the United States provided OSCE-Bishkek with $500,000 in support of this program. To date, this funding has been utilized for renovation of and upgrades to explosive storage facilities, destruction of excess and unserviceable munitions, and training programs in support of PSSM initiatives. The European Union, Finland, Kazakhstan, and the United Kingdom have also provided funds in support of ongoing projects. This combined assistance will develop a national regulatory framework for the management of SA/LW and conventional ammunition stockpiles that meets and adheres to OSCE and U.N. best practices; mitigates the threat to civilians from unplanned depot explosions with infrastructure development and facility modernization; trains and educates the Kyrgystani military to adhere to weapons and ammunition storage procedures based on explosive classification and compatibility standards; and facilitates destruction of excess, unserviceable, or unsafe weapons and weapon systems.
At the request of OSCE, the DTRA SA/LW Program conducted three PSSM seminars in Bishkek and Osh in February and March 2012. The seminars were sponsored by OSCE-Bishkek, and the team provided international PSSM best practices and procedures training to more than 60 members of the Ministry of Defense of Kyrgyzstan. DTRA instructors were assisted by a subject-matter expert from the Swedish EOD and Demining Centre. The goal of the seminars was to improve Kyrgyzstan’s PSSM procedures by providing a forum for international best practices on safe storage and stockpile management of arms, ammunition, and explosives (AA&E). These seminars were part of an OSCE Comprehensive Project on SA/LW and Conventional Ammunition in Kyrgyzstan. The DTRA SA/LW Program and the Swedish Arms Control Agency have collaborated and coordinated AA&E assistance activities through the Multinational Small Arms and Ammunition Group for several years.
Farmers in Khammouan province, Laos, harvest crops from cleared land.
Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the world, a result of the Indochina Wars of the 1960s and 1970s. While landmines were laid in Laos during this period, unexploded ordnance (UXO), such as cluster munitions, called “bombies,” represent a far greater threat to the population. Most of the country’s 17 provinces are contaminated by UXO, and population growth in rural areas and other socioeconomic factors intensify demands to put UXO-contaminated land into production, which in turn leads to increased risk of death and injury.
Since 1993, the United States has invested $62,061,333 in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Laos for clearance and safe disposal of mines and UXO as well as survivor assistance and risk education. Directed through several international partner organizations and UXO Lao, a national clearance operator, CWD programs have made significant progress toward restoring access to land and infrastructure, increasing national capacity to manage such programs independently, providing invaluable support to UXO survivors, and protecting Laotian communities from potential risks.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits with Phongsavath Souliyalat at COPE Center in Vientiane, Laos, during her July 2012 visit.
In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $9,233,333 to Laos for CWD programs that cleared mines and UXO and provided mine risk education (MRE) and victim assistance as follows:
In FY2012, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) deployed four subject-matter experts to Laos to conduct a program development visit to analyze and develop future humanitarian mine action train-the-trainer events. Funding for travel related costs totaled $32,645.
The U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Training Center (HDTC) also deployed two subject-matter experts to Laos in support of USPACOM’s program development visit. Overseas Humanitarian Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid funded the HDTC travel costs, totaling $21,945.
The Republic of Palau is contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) dating back to World War II. The majority of the contamination is on the island of Peleliu, which saw fierce combat between American and Japanese forces in late 1944. UXO contamination exists elsewhere in the island nation where U.S. forces bombarded Japanese bases.
The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) began conventional weapons destruction assistance to Palau with an $85,000 grant in FY2009 to the United Kingdom-based nonprofit Cleared Ground Demining (CGD). In FY2012 PM/WRA provided $150,000 to CGD to conduct battle area clearance on sites along Bloody Nose Ridge on Peleliu and to conduct UXO spot task removal throughout the country.
Members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force are trained in explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) by Golden West Humanitarian Foundation. Here, two of the EOD team members cut a World War II-era projectile at the team’s EOD facility at Hell’s Point on Guadalcanal. Photo courtesy of Dave Hardison, PM/WRA, U.S. Dept. of State.
The Solomon Islands are contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO) remaining from World War II. In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted $566,667 to Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (GWHF) to continue providing International Mine Action Standards Level 2 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training and technical oversight to the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force’s EOD team.
In 2012 the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program began an operational field evaluation of the Badger armored excavator with GWHF. The evaluation took place in the Solomon Islands on Guadalcanal where U.S. and Japanese forces fought during World War II. With a suite of attachments for removing thick, mature tropical vegetation, deeply buried UXO, and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO), the Badger began operations in mid-FY2012 to provide access to EOD teams to locate and clear UXO and AXO at Hells Point. This UXO and AXO contamination has long been a source of “fish bomb” material that endangers local populations and destroys fishing grounds. Valued at $325,000, the Badger cleared 305,000 square meters (75 acres) of extremely dense jungle vegetation in difficult terrain and found 602 items of UXO and AXO in FY2012.
Sri Lanka is contaminated by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) remaining from more than three decades of armed conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which sought a separate homeland in the north and east. After the war ended in 2009, demining activities immediately commenced; however, mine and ERW contamination remains a critical impediment to the resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDP) and development initiatives. According to the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, approximately 116,000 IDPs remain in the country. The vast majority of IDPs live with host families while others live in welfare centers and transit camps. The widespread presence of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) presents an ongoing threat to the safety of returnees and the long-term security of Sri Lanka.
Morning safety briefing for Mine Action Team 10, an all-female demining team funded by PM/WRA in Mullativu district, Sri Lanka. Of the 360,000 IDPs all but 6,000 have been able to return home and safely rebuild their lives thanks to the work achieved by MAG, other NGOs, and Sri Lankan military clearance teams.
From FY2002 through FY2012 the United States invested more than $35 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Sri Lanka to clear and safely dispose of mines, UXO, and excess weapons and munitions. Directed through several international partner organizations, this assistance has made significant progress toward restoring access to land and infrastructure, developing national capacity to manage CWD programs independently, and protecting communities from potential risks.
In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $4.8 million to Sri Lanka for CWD programs that cleared landmines and UXO and provided mine risk education (MRE) as follows:
In FY2012 U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) deployed four subject-matter experts to Sri Lanka to conduct a program development visit to analyze and develop future humanitarian mine action train-the-trainer events. Funding for travel-related costs totaled $42,047. The U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Training Center (HDTC) deployed two experts to Sri Lanka in direct support of USPACOM’s program development visit. Overseas Humanitarian Disaster Assistance and Civic Aid funded the HDTC travel costs, totaling $9,229.
Also in FY2012 the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with MAG, continued an evaluation of the Improved Backhoe system. The equipment, valued at $220,000, provides area preparation, area reduction, and mine clearance capabilities to release villages and agricultural land to returning IDPs. The Improved Backhoe has cleared vegetation from 68,000 cubic meters (88,941 cubic yards) of land and sifted 40,000 cubic meters (52,318 cubic yards) of soil, uncovering 1,600 mines.
FSD staff in Tajikistan place shells in an incinerator to be destroyed.
Landmine contamination in Tajikistan remains along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border from the Soviet Army’s border defense operations during its 1979–1989 occupation of Afghanistan and in central areas of Tajikistan from the 1992–1997 civil war. Uzbekistan also continues to mine the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan border piecemeal, with new minefields created as recently as 2012. As a result of years of conflict, as well as the porous border with Afghanistan, a large quantity of ammunition and weapons in Tajikistan are poorly secured, hindering national and regional security.
Through FY2012 the United States has invested more than $6.8 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Tajikistan for clearance and the safe disposal of landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and excess weapons and munitions.
In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $1,691,120 to Tajikistan for CWD programs that cleared landmines and UXO, developed host-nation capacity, and provided victim assistance as follows:
Also in FY2012, the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with Tajikistan’s MOD, TMAC, the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Military Cooperation, and OSCE, completed a field-trial evaluation of the Mini MineWolf, a remote-controlled, earth-tilling system capable of clearing anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines. With the help of the Mini MineWolf, the demining team surveyed and cleared 532,000 square meters (132 acres) of land and found or destroyed 793 mines and items of UXO along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border.
Using Foreign Military Financing (FMF), Tajikistan’s MOD procured its own Mini MineWolf, delivered in 2011. In 2012 the MOD requested to include an additional year of field service support, a remote camera, and a mobile maintenance workshop, expected for delivery in late spring 2013. This FMF grant assistance totals $1.2 million. In coordination with OSCE, the U.S. Embassy is also requesting $100,000 in extra budgetary funding for additional parts and spares, and is exploring long-term parts assistance and the eventual incorporation of the mechanical and manual demining groups into MOD’s peacekeeping unit as a deployable U.N. niche capability.
Additionally, the Leahy War Victims Fund of the U.S. Agency for International Development provided $1.5 million to Tajikistan in FY2012 to strengthen the country’s rehabilitation services.
Threatening national and regional security, Thailand’s borders with Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia are contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war. The 700 kilometer (435 mile) Thai-Cambodian border still contains extensive contamination—including ammunition and grenade caches, mortar shells, and unexploded ordnance—left behind by Cambodian non-state actors in the 1980s and 1990s.
In FY2012 the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program partnered with the Thailand Mine Action Center to continue operational field evaluations of several mechanical technologies in Thailand. The technologies that concluded evaluations, including the remote-controlled Tempest, Survivable Demining Tractors, and Uni-Disk Excavator, have cleared 6.4 million square meters (2.5 square miles) of suspected hazardous areas over the last decade. Evaluations of the small remote-controlled Wolverine Vegetation Cutter and Beaver Mini-excavator continued, clearing vegetation from 460,000 square meters (114 acres) to date. Total assistance is valued at $1.5 million.
As a result of 30 years of conflict, extending from World War II through the Vietnam War, virtually all of Vietnam is contaminated to some extent by explosive remnants of war (ERW). The most heavily contaminated provinces are Quang Tri and Quang Binh, along the former Demilitarized Zone, and Ha Tinh, north of Quang Binh. Mined areas also remain in some parts of southern Vietnam, as well as along its border with China. A 2008 report by Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA) claimed that ERW and landmines killed 38,849 and injured 65,852 people from 1975 to 2007. The Vietnamese government is demonstrating a gradual openness to greater activity in the mine action sector, evidenced by the opening of Quang Nam province to mine action activities in 2012.
From FY1993 through FY2012 the United States invested almost $65.5 million in Vietnam to clear and dispose of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), assist landmine and UXO survivors, improve access to land and infrastructure, and support the development of national capacity for conventional weapons destruction (CWD). In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $4,032,296 to Vietnam for CWD programs as follows:
In FY2012 the U.S. DOD Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with MAG, continued an operational field evaluation of Vegetation Cutters, cutting 139,000 square meters (34 acres) of vegetation. The Vegetation Cutters provide critical access to manual clearance teams in densely vegetated areas. NPA, in partnership with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s Project RENEW, evaluated an Armored Excavator in area-preparation and clearance roles. Total assistance is valued at $300,000.
White oyster mushrooms are being grown inside the Communal Grow House located in the Mushroom Center in Cam Lo district, Vietnam, as part of the “Mushrooms with a Mission” microcredit program. The communal growing house is intended to offer UXO-affected, poor families a unique and pleasant social environment in which to work and to earn good incomes.
The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided additional support in FY2012 in Asian countries that did not receive funding from other U.S. conventional weapons destruction programs.
In FY2012 DTRA provided the following support in Bangladesh and Turkmenistan:
The USAID Leahy War Victims Fund also funded the following rehabilitation efforts in Asia: