U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program - Iraq
The United States has invested more than $300 million in Iraq since 2003 toward the clearance and safe disposal of landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and excess conventional weapons and munitions as well as the delivery of mine risk education and victim assistance. This assistance, directed through international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and contractors, has made significant progress toward protecting communities from potential risks, including heightened risks posed by activities related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), restoring access to land and infrastructure, and developing Iraqi capacity to manage weapons abatement programs independently over the long term.
The Landmine / Unexploded Ordnance Challenge
Iraq is contaminated by an estimated 10 to 15 million persistent landmines, UXO and explosive remnants of war (ERW) from conflicts dating back to the 1940s. Numerous large barrier minefields and UXO remain along the Iran/Iraq border as a result of the 1980s conflict between the two nations. The wars in 1990-1991 and the conflict that began in 2003 scattered significant numbers of UXO throughout the country, with the majority of contamination concentrated in the south.
In light of new contamination and displaced populations related to ISIS, Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) assistance to Iraq is taking on renewed urgency. As civilians flee large population centers, they become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in areas where they are not familiar with existing ERW hazards. As IDPs begin to return to their homes, they are confronted with both UXO from the recent conflict as well as deliberate mining and booby-trapping of homes and public spaces by ISIS. While the scale of contamination cannot be precisely determined until on-the-ground assessments are completed, the UN has estimated that more than $250 million will be needed to clear explosive hazards from key infrastructure alone. This estimate does not include the cost of clearing residential areas.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) has provided approximately $47 million to support CWD efforts in Iraq, leading to the following results:
- Cleared landmines, UXO, and IEDs from more than 10 million square meters of land across Iraq during the first half of 2017, which facilitated the restoration of key infrastructure and revitalized economic and agricultural development throughout the nation;
- Destroyed more than 10,500 landmines, UXO, and IEDs, as well as abandoned or otherwise at-risk munitions during the first half of 2017;
- Provided risk education to more than 38,500 Iraqi men, women and children during the first half of 2017, teaching them about the potential dangers from landmines and UXO in their communities; and
- Worked closely with Iraqi authorities and UNDP to support the clearance of critical infrastructure including schools, factories, roads, power stations, and bakeries in areas recently liberated from ISIS to help bolster broader stabilization goals.
U.S.-Funded Partner Initiatives:
- Janus Global Operations (Janus): Department of State funding enables Janus to conduct ERW survey and clearance operation in and around Ramadi, Mosul, and the Ninewa Plains. In coordination with UNDP and UNMAS, Janus has played a vital role in clearing UXO and IEDs left behind by ISIS from key infrastructure, including wells, cement factories, schools, roads, and power stations in recently liberated areas. Janus cleared over 1.2 million square meters of previously contaminated land during the first half of 2017 and over 3.6 million square meters since April 2016.
- MAG (Mines Advisory Group): Department of State funding has enabled MAG Iraq to clear over 1.1 million square meters of contaminated land and safely remove and destroy 1,841 landmines and ERW in northern Iraq during the first half of 2017. MAG’s work in newly liberated areas will play a vital role in ensuring the safe and timely return of IDPs, including Yezidi populations in Sinuni, Zammar, and Rabia. Additionally, MAG will continue to deploy community liaison teams responsible for educating returnees about the dangers posed by ERW.
- Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA): Department of State funding enabled NPA to provide technical advisors to the Iraqi Regional Mine Action Center -South in Basra (RMAC-S) to help it fulfill its role as a regulatory body able to coordinate and monitor mine action activities. This project has enabled the RMAC-S to implement a Non-Technical Survey (NTS) designed to provide a more accurate picture of the mine/ERW situation in southern Iraq. Additionally, NPA’s WRA-funded teams cleared over 2.9 million square meters of land and safely destroyed 677 cluster munitions and other pieces of UXO in the first half of 2017.
- Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD): Department of State funding enabled FSD to conduct battle area clearance operations in towns in Erbil and Kirkuk Governorates that were recently liberated from ISIS. FSD cleared approximately 750,000 square meters of contaminated land and safely destroyed 3,797 mines, IEDs, and pieces of UXO during the first half of 2017.
- Danish Demining Group (DDG): Department of State funding enabled DDG to conduct survey and clearance operations in southern Iraq as well as assist in developing the program capacity of the RMAC-S in coordination with the Iraqi Directorate of Mine Action (DMA). In addition to clearing over 4.3 million square meters of land and safely destroying over 2,500 landmines and pieces of UXO, DDG provided mine risk education to over 7,700 people during the first half of 2017.
- Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP): Department of State funding allows iMMAP advisors to continue to provide operational management, strategic planning, victims’ assistance support, and technical expertise. In September 2015, the DMA, the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA), and iMMAP signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing iMMAP to establish a joint DMA and IKMAA Information Management Database to track humanitarian mine action (HMA) information in areas liberated from ISIS, and facilitate the flow of HMA data among various mine action NGOs assisting in stabilization efforts. Since then, iMMAP has played a pivotal role coordinating demining efforts among DMA, IKMAA, and various organizations conducing demining operations in support of stabilization efforts.
- Spirit of Soccer (SoS): With Department of State funding, SoS continues to implement innovative projects using soccer as a means to promote education and outreach to children about the risks from landmines and UXO. Expanding on these techniques, SoS incorporated trauma training for youth affected by ISIS-related violence and pursued local league and tournament sponsorships in order to target young Iraqi males at risk of joining extremist groups. SoS provided mine risk education training to over 8,500 children during the first half of 2017.
The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear UXO and landmines. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $2.8 billion to more than 100 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war. For more information on U.S. humanitarian demining and CWD programs, check out the latest edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety.