2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Afghanistan

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Date: 2015 Description: Getting to grips with the VMR3-MINEHOUND in Afghanistan. Although the system can initially seem complicated, experienced deminers soon master the controls.  © Photo courtesy of HALO.

Following decades of intense violent conflict, Afghanistan has one of the highest levels of contamination from landmines and UXO in the world. The 1979 Soviet invasion, internal armed conflict from 1992 to 2001, and the U.S.-led coalition’s intervention in late 2001 each added significant quantities of UXO to the country. As of November 2014, the Mine Action Coordination Center for Afghanistan estimated the number of hazardous areas at 4,197, directly impacting 506,000,000 square meters (195 square miles), 1,617 communities, and over 775,000 people.

FY1993 through FY2014, the United States invested more than $398 million in CWD projects throughout Afghanistan aimed at the clearance and safe disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess weapons and munitions. This assistance has achieved significant progress in restoring access to land and infrastructure, developing Afghan capacity to independently manage CWD programs, and protecting Afghan communities from explosive risks. In FY2014, the U.S. government contributed more than $22.6 million for CWD in Afghanistan.

The Department of State supported the work of the following implementing partners:

• Afghan Technical Consultants to conduct UXO clearance work in the Kabul and Baghlan Provinces of central Afghanistan. They also continued separate, high-priority demining in Kabul and Logar Provinces.

• Clear Path International implemented integrated victim assistance projects in 22 of the 34 Afghan provinces.

• Danish Demining Group deployed mine clearance and survey teams, and conducted mine risk education for at-risk populations in Panjshir Province.

• Demining Agency for Afghanistan deployed manual and mechanical demining assets, mine detection dogs, and EOD teams to conduct UXO clearance work in the Kabul and Nangarhar Provinces of central and eastern Afghanistan. They also supported community-based demining projects in the Kajaki, Musa Qala, and Zhari Districts.

• Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining planned, coordinated, and managed an International Donor Coordination Workshop in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in support of the Afghan Mine Action Program.

• HALO continued demining, survey and assessment, and weapons and ammunition disposal operations throughout central, northern, northeastern, and western provinces of Afghanistan.

• ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) received funding to support the Mine Action Program for Afghanistan, with emphasis on developing host-nation capacity through enhanced Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) training and development of program management skills within the Department of Mine Clearance and the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Agency.

• Marshall Legacy Institute identified excess capacity within the mine detection dog program and subsequently retired and repatriated U.S.-funded dogs to the United States for adoption by caring families.

• Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA) deployed manual and mechanical demining assets, mine detection dogs, and EOD teams to conduct UXO clearance work in central and eastern Afghanistan in Logar and Nangarhar Provinces. In December 2014, MCPA planned to conduct a non-technical survey of 21 UXO-contaminated districts located within 13 provinces throughout Afghanistan that continue excessive UXO contamination.

• Mine Detection Dog Center deployed manual and mechanical demining assets, mine detection dogs, and EOD teams to reduce the threat of UXO to the population of eastern Afghanistan in Nangarhar Province and Takhar Province, and supported a community-based demining project in the Garmsir and Sangin Districts of Helmand Province.

• Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR) deployed manual and mechanical demining assets, mine detection dogs, and EOD teams for clearance work in Kabul, Logar, and Nangarhar Provinces, and high-priority tasks in the Parwan and Panjshir Provinces. Also, OMAR managed, maintained, and developed eight CWD teams of Afghan EOD technicians.

• Sterling Global implemented a multi-tiered monitoring and evaluation program for U.S.-funded mine clearance projects and provided operational mentoring and organizational development to five national nongovernmental organizations. In early 2014, Sterling Global facilitated the transition of eight CWD teams to a national implementing partner and maintains oversight, monitoring and quality assurance through national and international technical advisers.

The Department of Defense HD R&D program partnered with HALO to continue evaluation of Minehound, a hand-held detector for minimum-metal anti-tank mines; Orbit Screen, which sifts mine-contaminated soil; a suite of mine action attachments for excavators and loaders; and the Raptor, an armored tractor with the Rotary Mine Comb anti-tank mine clearance attachment. The Rotary Mine Comb has been particularly successful in clearing large minefields contaminated only with minimum-metal anti-tank mines in hard, rocky soil or where metal contamination or electrical interference precludes metal detectors. Together these systems have cleared more than 4.3 million square meters (1.66 square miles) of land and found 42,000 mines and pieces of UXO to date.