2015 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Iraq

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Date: 2015 Description: NPA risk education instructor Mrs. Hayat Qasim conducts risk education activities in Amara, Missan. Risk education includes internally displaced people who may not be familiar with the UXO threat in Missan Province because they are new to the area.  © Photo courtesy of NPA.

Iraq is one of the world’s most heavily landmine- and UXO-contaminated countries, mainly as a result of the 1980s Iran-Iraq War, followed by armed conflict in 1990–1991, and the U.S.-led coalition’s intervention in early 2003. According to two landmine impact surveys from 2006 and 2011, approximately 1,513,000,000 square meters (584 square miles) of land, encompassing up to 1,430 Iraqi communities, contain an estimated 10 to 15 million landmines and millions more UXO items. Massive stockpiles of abandoned explosive ordnance and aging, poorly secured munitions threaten the local population by allowing insurgents to easily acquire a supply of explosive materials for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). More recently, Iraq’s conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has dramatically altered the CWD landscape in the country. ISIL is endangering civilians and impacting the movements of internally displaced persons through the use of landmines and other conventional weapons, as well as indiscriminate booby-trapping and laying of IEDs. As civilians flee large population centers, they encounter UXO hazards in unfamiliar areas.

From FY2003 through FY2014, the United States invested more than $282.9 million in Iraq for the clearance and disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess conventional weapons and munitions. In FY2014, the U.S. government contributed nearly $24 million for CWD in Iraq.

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

• Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP) conducted six workshops and 13 training courses, instructing 128 students in information management, data collection, and mapping. iMMAP also trained 50 rehabilitation technicians who treated thousands of landmine, UXO, and IED survivors.

• Iraq Mine/UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO) supported four technical advisers and provided landmine and UXO remediation in central and southern Iraq. As of April 2014, IMCO cleared 9,380,000 square meters (almost 4 square miles) of battle area, and destroyed 200 anti-personnel mines, and 3,783 items of UXO.

• MAG cleared minefields and performed battle area clearance, and specifically supported counter-ISIL activities with PM/WRA funding, undertaking CWD in areas surrounding camps for internally displaced persons.

• Marshall Legacy Institute provided four new, fully trained and certified mine detection dogs to IMCO for in-country clearance teams. They also linked three U.S. and Iraqi schools through the Children Against Mines program (CHAMPS) to promote mine risk education and provide medical assistance to young survivors in Basrah and the surrounding area.

• NPA provided technical advisers to the Regional Mine Action Center-South (RMAC-S), and assisted in building its capacity as a regulatory body able to coordinate and monitor mine-action activities. The project enabled RMAC-S to implement a non-technical survey designed to provide a more accurate picture of the UXO situation in southern Iraq. NPA is also conducting clearance in Maysan Province.

• Spirit of Soccer conducted soccer-related mine risk education aimed at children in camps for internally displaced persons following the recent ISIL incursion in northern Iraq.

• PM/WRA held a three-day workshop for implementing partners and U.S. government stakeholders to plan upcoming FY2015 activities in the context of the regional instability caused by the ongoing conflict in Syria and the ISIL-related violence in Iraq.

The Department of Defense HD R&D program funded MAG to evaluate the Rebel Crusher, a new mobile soil sifter and crushing plant modified for demining operations, and MAG continued evaluations of several excavator sifting attachments, a stand-alone orbital sifter, and a commercial front-loader attachment. The technology is completing complicated, low-density mine clearance tasks around villages and agricultural areas in northern Iraq that have been mine-affected for more than 20 years. To date, the equipment has sifted 193,000 cubic meters (more than 252 cubic yards) of contaminated soil and uncovered or destroyed 2,100 mines and pieces of UXO.