The United States’ Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) priorities in the Middle East are to foster stability, strengthen security, facilitate economic development, and enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Across the region, ISIS-emplaced improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines still terrorize communities and foster instability. In Libya, illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) fuels both domestic and regional violence, slowing the return of displaced communities. In Yemen, the widespread use of landmines by Iran-backed Houthi forces continue to kill civilians and block the delivery of humanitarian aid. In Jordan, landmine survivors from regional conflicts are in need of medical services, such as prosthetics, as well as rehabilitation and support in reintegrating into society and their communities. Yemen and Iraq remain some of the most heavily-mined countries in the world. U.S. CWD assistance seeks to address these challenges through a wide range of programs that are removing explosive hazards to return land, infrastructure, and businesses to communities for safe and productive use.
Since 1993, the United States has invested more than $904 million in CWD assistance to the Middle East and North Africa. Our work to locate, mark, and remove IEDs, mines, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) allows displaced families to return to their communities, fosters economic development, and facilitates restoration of basic services while also building partner government capacity to address these challenges in the long term. Explosive ordnance risk education reduces deaths and injuries, and survivor assistance projects provide rehabilitation and reintegration support. All of these programs help lay the groundwork for stability and prosperity across the region.
The United States is the largest donor to CWD activities in Iraq, investing more than $590 million since 2003 toward the clearance of landmines, IEDs, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) as well as for risk education. The United States significantly increased CWD assistance to Iraq beginning in 2015 in order to address the unprecedented level of mass-produced, technologically sophisticated IEDs developed and employed by ISIS to booby-trap homes, public spaces, farmland, and infrastructure to discourage the return of internally displaced persons and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians. U.S.-funded implementing partners in Iraq accomplished the following in 2020:
- Deployed more than 45 survey and clearance teams across Iraq to identify, mark, and remove explosive hazards;
- Cleared nearly 20,000 explosive hazards, including 4,301 ISIS-laid IEDs;
- Returned more than 25,300,000 square meters (more than 6,250 acres) of land previously contaminated by ERW for safe and productive use;
- Removed IEDs and other ERW from 15 critical infrastructure sites including hospitals, schools, factories, roads, power stations, water pipelines, airports, and grain storage facilities in areas liberated from ISIS to facilitate repairs and the delivery of essential services;
- Cleared legacy ERW contamination in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and southern Iraq from conflicts dating back to the 1980s, removing barriers to economic development while improving civilian security;
- Provided risk education to more than 867,000 Iraqi men, women, and children, teaching them about potential dangers from ERW in their communities and encouraging safe behavior through a combination of in-person sessions and innovative digital risk education; and
- Strengthened Iraqi capacity to clear ERW, oversee survey and clearance operations, and manage ERW-related data in order to equip Iraq with the tools needed to address ERW contamination in the long term.
Since 1996, the United States has invested more than $29 million in CWD programs in Jordan, including clearance of mines and ERW, risk education, and rehabilitation and reintegration support for survivors of landmine and UXO accidents. In 2012, Jordan declared itself mine impact free, though some residual contamination remains along its northern border and in the Jordan River Valley. In 2020, U.S.-funded implementing partner the Polus Center provided prosthetics, physical therapy, and vocational training to landmine and UXO survivors.
The United States is the largest international donor to CWD efforts in Lebanon, investing more than $82 million since 1998 in support of Lebanon’s CWD goals. Lebanon remains contaminated by landmines, UXO, IEDs, and other ERW from the 1975-1990 Civil War, the Israel-Hizballah conflict of 2006, and the presence of ISIS and other violent extremist groups along the Syrian border. Since 1975, ERW has killed over 900 people and injured thousands more. Beyond the human toll, ERW contamination continues to hinder economic development and access to fertile farmland across large swaths of the country. CWD assistance has also bolstered the Lebanese Armed Forces’ (LAF) in various ways. The LAF leads the Government of Lebanon’s efforts to address ERW contamination through its Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC). With steady CWD support, the LMAC has developed strong capabilities in ERW survey and clearance operations, mine detection dog handling, risk education, and coordination among the mine action sector’s many actors. Additionally, CWD projects are improving physical security and stockpile management practices at key LAF ammunition depots, ensuring that munitions remain safe, secure and under the LAF’s firm control. This assistance bolsters the LAF’s standing as an institution that actively serves all Lebanese citizens’ best interests. U.S.-funded implementing partners in Lebanon accomplished the following during 2020:
- Deployed 16 teams across Lebanon responsible for surveying and clearing areas suspected to contain explosive hazards;
- Cleared 3,627 explosive hazards in North Lebanon, South Lebanon, Nabatiyeh, Baalbek, and Mt. Lebanon Governorates;
- Returned more than 341,000 square meters (more than 84 acres) of land previously contaminated by ERW back to productive use; and
- Provided facility upgrades and emergency repairs at LAF ammunition depots, trained ammunition management staff in stockpile management best practices, and assessed sites for possible future assistance, including the First Artillery Regiment depot – located at the Port of Beirut.
Since 2011 the United States has invested more than $49.5 million in CWD programs in Libya. The United States remains committed to working with humanitarian organizations and the Libyan Mine Action Center to address ERW contamination resulting from fighting among Libyan security forces, rival militias, and violent extremist organizations (VEO), including IEDs emplaced in areas previously occupied by ISIS, such as Benghazi and Sirte. Most recently, the civil conflict between forces aligned with the former Government of National Accord and those aligned with the self-styled “Libya National Army” (LNA) has resulted in additional UXO and complex IED contamination. U.S.-funded implementing partners in Libya accomplished the following during 2020:
- Deployed eight clearance teams in Tripoli, Sirte, and Benghazi to address contamination left by ISIS and other VEOs;
- Cleared 362 explosive hazards including landmines, UXO, and IEDs in Sirte and Benghazi; and
- Supported and built the capacity of the Libyan Mine Action Center including urban survey and EOD call-out capabilities to respond to increased contamination in and around Tripoli.
The United States has invested more than $48 million in CWD activities in Yemen since 1997 and is currently the largest donor to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) demining initiative in Yemen. The United States significantly increased CWD assistance to Yemen in 2017 to address unprecedented levels of explosive contamination from the ongoing conflict, including Houthi manufactured and emplaced landmines and IEDs estimated to number over one million. U.S. support allowed our partners to clear dangerous explosive hazards, build Yemeni national demining capacity, destroy stockpiles of abandoned munitions, provide mine risk education to vulnerable populations, and deliver medical care and vocational training to mine survivors. These activities enabled delivery of humanitarian assistance, restoration of damaged critical infrastructure, enhanced human security, prevented explosive harvesting by malign actors, and promoted a safe environment for the resumption of economic activity. U.S.-funded implementing partners in Yemen accomplished the following during 2020:
- Deployed 41 teams across Yemen responsible for surveying and clearing areas contaminated by dangerous explosive hazards;
- Cleared more than 54,000 landmines, IEDs, UXO, and other explosive hazards, enabling economic development, access to essential services, and the restoration of critical infrastructure.
- Facilitated the establishment of the Yemen Mine Action Coordination Center (YMACC) to serve as a national coordination authority for mine action operations;
- Trained 72 Yemeni Government deminers to address complex landmines and IEDs emplaced by Houthi forces;
- Provided prosthetics and/or vocational training to more than 170 Yemeni men, women and children allowing survivors of landmines and other explosive hazards to maintain their independence and provide for themselves and their families; and
- Provided risk education to more than 358,000 Yemeni men, women, and children, teaching them about potential dangers from ERW in their communities and encouraging safe behavior.
For further information, please contact the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at PM-CPA@state.gov, and follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter, @StateDeptPM