Spirit of Soccer coaches and instructors promote mine risk education to Iraqi children in Basra and Khanaqin, Iraq.
Containing only 5 percent of the global population, the culturally rich and politically sensitive Middle East is the birthplace of three major world religions. The quality of life in contentious and impoverished nations such as Iraq and Yemen sharply differs from that of nearby affluent countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, nearly two-thirds of the region’s population is under 30, and youth unemployment is at 24 percent, the highest in the world. Internal unrest and explosive remnants of war (ERW) remaining from past conflicts plague the daily lives of many of the regions’ inhabitants. Since the March 2011 uprising began, Syria has witnessed a growing number of deaths and injuries among internally displaced persons and refugees as they flee to neighboring countries, caused by ERW, unexploded ordnance, and reported landmines laid by the Assad regime along Syria’s borders. In contrast, with support from the United States and international community, Jordan became the first country in the Middle East to declare itself minefield impact-free in April 2012. Essential to building stable societies, the U.S. conventional weapons destruction funding has provided more than $358 million to support humanitarian mine action, physical security and stockpile management, and victim assistance in the Middle East and North Africa.
Spirit of Soccer facilitators deliver mine and unexploded ordnance risk education In Iraq.
Iraq is severely affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of several decades of conflict. According to two Landmine Impact Surveys, one from 2006 and one from 2011, and additional reporting, Iraq’s total contamination is estimated at 1,975,648,235 square meters (763 square miles) before area reduction and technical survey. In spite of the 462,648,235 square meters (179 square miles) that have been released, at least 1,513,000,000 square meters (585 square miles) of land is still contaminated, containing as many as 20 million landmines and millions of items of unexploded ordnance (UXO). This contamination affects at least 1,430 Iraqi cities, towns, and villages. As most of the contaminated area is agricultural land, clearance is an economic necessity as well as a security priority.
Since 2003, the United States has invested more than $234 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Iraq aimed at clearance and safe disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess weapons and munitions. Directed through several Iraqi and international nongovernmental organizations, this assistance has made significant progress toward restoring access to land and infrastructure, developing Iraqi capacity to manage such 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 $25 million to Iraq for CWD programs. These programs cleared mines and ERW and released more than 687 million square meters (265 square miles) of land across Iraq, revitalizing the economic and agricultural development throughout the nation; destroyed more than 135,430 items of UXO, and abandoned and at-risk munitions; and provided mine and ERW risk education (MRE) to more than 40,000 Iraqi citizens. More specifically, the funding supported the following organizations and activities:
In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in partnership with MAG, continued evaluations of several excavator sifting attachments, a stand-alone Orbital Sifter, and a commercial front-loader attachment. With this assistance, valued at $300,000, MAG is clearing villages and agricultural areas that have been mine-affected for more than 20 years. To date, the equipment has sifted 115,000 cubic meters (150,414 cubic yards) of contaminated soil and uncovered or destroyed 1,800 mines and items of UXO. Though the figures are modest, the equipment consistently locates mines where manual clearance or MDDs are not feasible. Without its assistance, MAG would be unable to complete and hand over many of the sites.
Mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination in Jordan remains from the 1948 partition of Palestine, the 1967–1969 Arab-Israeli conflict, the 1970 civil war, and the confrontation with Syria in the 1970s. According to military estimates and the National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR), 305,000 anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines were laid on Jordanian territory. ERW and abandoned ordnance caches remain from the 1970 expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from Jordan and are also a major concern.
Since 1996, the United States has invested more than $25 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD), including humanitarian mine action (HMA), in Jordan. Directed through several Jordanian and international partner organizations, in April 2012 Jordan became the first country in the Middle East to declare itself free of all known minefields. This was a major accomplishment for both Jordan and the United States, since the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) has been the primary bilateral donor. However, there continues to be a residual problem from an estimated 10,000 missing mines, which have either migrated due to floods and erosion or been removed by people crossing the mined areas. PM/WRA is providing funds to support survey and clearance efforts in response to this problem.
In FY2012 PM/WRA provided $3,850,000 to Jordan for the following CWD programs:
Deminers in Lebanon face challenging terrain.
Lebanon is contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) largely from the 1975–1991 civil war and the Israel-Hizballah conflict of 2006. According to the Lebanon Mine Action Center’s (LMAC) 2012 annual report, manual and mechanical demining teams destroyed landmines in 136.65 square meters (163.43 square yards) of land in six provinces in Lebanon. The teams also destroyed 4,546 cluster munitions devices to clear 2.83 square kilometers (1.09 square miles) of land in three provinces. Post-clearance impact studies in southern Lebanon have shown that the majority of clearance efforts have released land previously used for agriculture, residential communities, and schools. Contamination in southern Lebanon threatens not only the lives of civilians but also hinders socioeconomic development and the overall security of the region.
From FY1993 through FY2012 the United States invested more than $48 million in conventional weapons destruction (CWD), including humanitarian mine action, in Lebanon. Of this funding, $10 million was emergency assistance provided in response to the 2006 Israel-Hizballah conflict.
In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested $2,524,471 in Lebanon for CWD programs to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as follows:
Also in FY2012 the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program began several technology evaluations in Lebanon with MAG. Among the equipment valued at $590,000, MAG is evaluating several soil excavation, sifting, and grinding attachments on their armored excavators. In addition, MAG began an evaluation of the Terrapin to clear UXO and mines from overgrown terraced olive groves, some of which have been inaccessible for as long as 30 years. The Terrapin’s versatile capabilities as a small remote-controlled excavator will improve the speed of manual clearance by cutting and removing thick vegetation, then excavating and clearing the ordnance, while improving safety in steep and difficult to access areas.
MAG Technical Field Manager and Team Leader Fred Gras unloads a BM-21 Grad rocket launcher in Adjdabya, Libya. The launcher had been hit in a NATO airstike and still contained 15 fuzed 122 mm rockets.
Libya is burdened with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from conflicts dating back to World War II. During the 2011 revolution, which led to the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, numerous ammunition storage areas (ASA) built and supplied by the Qadhafi regime were damaged or destroyed. Explosive remnants of war (ERW) were scattered into surrounding areas and an unknown number of unsecured arms and munitions found their way into the hands of local militias and civilians. The full magnitude of weapons proliferation remains unknown because access to ASAs is limited and reliable stockpile records are not available due to a security vacuum in Libya following the revolution.
Since Libya’s revolution began in early 2011, the United States has committed resources to support the efforts of the new Libyan authorities to secure conventional and advanced conventional weapons, including man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS). These resources support the government of Libya as it continues to build stability and security as a new democracy. The Libyan authorities listed conventional weapons proliferation abatement as one of their top security priorities in meetings with international partners in London on December 17, 2012 and Paris on February 12, 2013.
In FY2011 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) awarded $5.75 million for rapid assessment of UXO in Libya and technical assistance for conventional weapons destruction (CWD), including MANPADS. Through this funding, significant progress was made toward clearing UXO and ERW and securing loose weapons. PM/WRA’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF) assisted Libya in identifying 134 ASAs and 1,746 bunkers, and Libyan officials and QRF experts accounted for, secured, and eliminated an estimated 5,000 MANPADS and MANPADS components designated as damaged, unsafe, or at risk of illicit proliferation.
In FY2012, to help address the MANPADS threat in Libya, the DOS Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation’s (ISN) Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF) obligated $17.8 million to a contract with Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI) to conduct a methodical inventory and reduction of MANPADS stockpiles. Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom (U.K.) together contributed nearly $6 million to support these activities. France, Italy, and the U.K. also provided technical experts to support CWD. CDI’s progress in early 2012 was limited because of political instability, an uncertain security environment, and weak Libyan governmental institutions.
Sterling International (now Sterling Global) also received $4 million in NDF funds in FY2012 to conduct rapid assessments through FY2013 and help develop Libyan CWD capacity, primarily through establishment of the Libyan Mine Action Center (LMAC). This agency, composed of and administered by Libyan civilians, works closely with Libya’s Ministry of Defense. The intent is for LMAC to be the main focal point for Libyan CWD efforts. Germany has also donated key funds to support LMAC operations.
For the past year, MLI has implemented a PM/WRA-funded mine survivors assistance program in Yemen in cooperation with the Yemen Mine Action Center and the Yemeni Association for Landmine Survivors (YALS). Included in this program is the provision of vocational computer training for landmine survivors at YALS.
Yemen suffers from the presence of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) left from various conflicts since 1962, including a civil war in 1994, an intermittent Houthi rebellion in the northern governorate of Sa’dah, and a mid-2011 armed conflict in southern Yemen between Islamic Ansar al-Sharee’ah insurgents and government troops. This al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula-affiliated organization left behind improvised explosive devices (IED) interspersed with older unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines when they withdrew from Abyan in southern Yemen in 2012, endangering the local population. Although approximately 80,000 internally displaced persons have returned to their homes in Abyan, ERW remain a threat to civilians and stabilization efforts.
The Yemen Mine Action Center (YEMAC), which is rated among the top three of 16 mine action programs evaluated by the United Nations, is conducting battle area clearance and mine risk education in Abyan. Survey and clearance operations that started soon after the government’s recapture of Abyan’s main towns in mid-June 2012 covered 900,000 square meters (222 acres). These operations resulted in the clearance of the Ja’ar, Zinjibar, Al-kod, and Shoqrah districts and the discovery and destruction of 34 anti-personnel (AP) mines, 23 anti-tank (AT) mines, 2,039 items of UXO, and 432 IEDs. During June–July 2012 more than 90 people were reported killed in Abyan, including three deminers. On October 22, 2012 four more deminers were injured during a depot explosion. Current YEMAC activities have already revealed new mines, IEDs, and extensive UXO and booby trap contamination. In 2012 the first victim assistance teams conducted a 10-day visit to two districts and reported 55 mine and UXO victims.
From FY1993 through FY2012 the United States invested more than $19 million in conventional weapons destruction, including humanitarian mine action, in Yemen. As of December 2010, clearance had been completed in all 14 Yemeni communities that were highly affected by landmines and ERW, except for three minefields subject to permanent marking. Clearance has also been completed in 81 of the 86 medium-affected communities, and a total of 89,201 AP mines, 716 AT mines, and 190,564 items of UXO were cleared from 783 square kilometers (302 square miles) of land.
In FY2012 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested $1,135,000 in Yemen to fund demining and recovery efforts as follows:
Landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination in the Palestinian Territories remains from decades of conflict since 1948. Although the exact amount of contamination is unknown, the mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) threat has increased over the years, with at least 15 minefields confirmed across the Palestinian Territories, including 20 square kilometers (almost 8 square miles) of the West Bank.
HALO Survey Officers discuss the demolition of explosive remnants of war with Israeli military EOD teams.
In FY2011 the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted $209,284 in support of humanitarian mine action in the Palestinian Territories. With this funding, The HALO Trust (HALO) conducted assessment and survey activities and worked with Palestinian and Israeli mine action authorities to lay the groundwork for a mine clearance program in the West Bank. This funding also enabled the Slovenia-based ITF Enhancing Human Security to provide medical assistance to eight conflict-affected children with amputated limbs, partial paralysis of lower limbs, or cerebral paralysis. The children received state-of-the-art medical treatment and rehabilitation at the University Rehabilitation Institute of the Republic of Slovenia.
In FY2012 PM/WRA provided $782,132 to HALO for mine risk education programs in the West Bank and the clearance of landmines and UXO along both sides of the Jordan River Valley.