U.S. Humanitarian Demining in the Middle East
Through generous contributions of money and personnel,
the U.S. has enabled five Middle-Eastern nations to institute
and maintain national demining programs.
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by Stacy L. Smith, U.S. Department of State Fellow
The United States seeks to
relieve human suffering caused by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) while promoting U.S. foreign policy interests. U.S. objectives are
to reduce civilian casualties, create conditions for the safe return of
refugees and displaced persons to their homes and reinforce an affected
countryís stability. The U.S. seeks to accomplish these objectives by
helping to establish and support sustainable indigenous mine action
capabilities in mine-affected nations where appropriate. Since fiscal
year 1993, the United States has committed almost $500 million (U.S.) to
global mine action initiatives, including research and development and
survivor assistance. Nearly $90 million (U.S.) more will be provided in
fiscal year 2002.
U.S. Involvement in the Middle
The U.S. government (the Department of Stateís
Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs (HDP) and the Department of
Defenseís Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance) provides
mine action assistance to five of 11 Middle Eastern countries reporting
landmine and/or UXO contamination. U.S.-assisted countries include
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen. These countries are estimated
to contain approximately 22 million landmines and UXO left over from
internal conflicts between warring factions and external conflicts with
neighboring countries. Although approximately 147,623 landmines/UXO have
been destroyed, allowing over 14.4 million sq. m of land to be returned
to productive use, the threat of landmines remains.
The Government of Egypt
estimates there are 5-5.75 million landmines and 15-15.25 million pieces
of UXO in its territory. The largest landmine/UXO contamination sites
exist in the northern part of the Western Desert, along the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea, and between the Nile Delta and the Libyan border.
Within these sites, the most heavily mined areas are Alexandria, El
Alamein, Ras-Al-Hekma, Marsa Matruth, Sidi Barrani, and Salloum.
Post-World War II mines and UXO exist in the east, in the Suez Canal
area, along the western coast of the Red Sea, and in the Sinai
Peninsula. These landmines and UXO affect 2,800 sq. km of Egyptian land,
2,539 sq. km in the west, and 261 sq. km in the east. According to the
Egyptian Army, landmines and UXO have killed 696 people (including 418
civilians) and injured another 7,617 (4,599 civilians) since the end of
World War II.
According to the Jordanian
Armed Forces (JAF) Royal Corps of Engineers, there are 222,637 landmines
in Jordan affecting an area of approximately 100 sq. km. Most of the
mines were placed in the ground during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict
with the majority located in two discrete areas in the northwest region
of the Jordan River Valley. One area is toward the northern end of the
Valley on the Syrian border, near Lake Tiberias, while the other is
farther south, near the northern end of the Dead Sea. Israeli-laid
minefields are located mainly in the southwest part of the country in
the Araba Valley in areas restored to Jordan after Israeli occupation.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) is not a serious problem in Jordan. The JAF
Medical Services reports that 636 Jordanians, including 370 civilians,
have become landmine victims since 1967. Ninety-two victims died from
their injuries. The majority of civilian casualties were farmers,
shepherds, hunters, and children. In 2000, landmines injured nine
military personnel and three civilians.
The French Mandate period (1923-1943), the
Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and the time during which Israel
occupied south Lebanon (1978-2000) have left Lebanon with an estimated
130,000 mines and UXO in the former occupied zone and 150,000 mines and
UXO in the rest of the country. The UN Intervention Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
claims that 50,644 anti-personnel landmines (APL) are located in 108
minefields along the Lebanon-Israel border, 7,730 APL and anti-tank
mines in an additional 48 minefield clusters, and 107,200 APL elsewhere
in the country. As of July 2000, landmines and UXO had killed 1,168
Lebanese and wounded 1,546 more; 15 of the fatalities and 99 of the
injuries occurred between May 2000 and May 2001. More than 40 percent of
victims suffered their injuries while engaged in agricultural
activities, the major source of income for Lebanese villagers. In South
Lebanon and West Bekaa, there has been a noticeable decrease in agricultural
production because of the presence of landmines.
Oman has a small landmine and
UXO problem. The vast majority of the landmines are found in the Dhofar
region in the south. They are the result of the 1964-1975 internal
conflict between the government of Oman and the separatist group, the
communist Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Gulf (PFLOG).
The Royal Omani Army (ROA) and its allies (Jordan, Iran, and the United
Kingdom) used landmines to protect defensive positions and to inhibit
the movements of separatists, while the PFLOG used landmines to ambush
ROA and allied units. The ROA states that it mapped, marked and then
cleared some of its minefields at the conclusion of the rebellion. The
PFLOG did not map, mark, or clear their minefields. Heavy seasonal
rains, terrain, and soil conditions have caused several of the mines to
migrate from their original positions. According to the Government of
Oman, landmines and UXO have killed 12 people and wounded 84 since the
end of the Dhofar rebellion. Almost 50 head of livestock have become
landmine casualties. In March 2001, there were two UXO incidents,
resulting in serious injuries.
Landmines have been used in
Yemen during three main periods: 1962-1969, 1970-1983 and in 1994.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that approximately 100,000 landmines litter
the Yemeni landscape as a result of these conflicts. A Level One Survey,
based on victim data, has identified 592 mine-affected communities in 95
districts in 18 of Yemenís 19 Governorates. Approximately 828,000
people, about six percent of the population, live in these communities.
Of the almost 1,100 identified contaminated areas, there are mines in
859 of them, affecting 799 sq. km, and UXO in 200, covering an area of
200 sq. km. Combatants laid these landmines in an arbitrary and
haphazard fashion, in sand dunes and fields and along roads, without
marking their location. The mines block access to grazing land and to
water for drinking and irrigation. For that reason, herders and children
who do not attend school are the most vulnerable to landmine injuries.
According to the Level One Survey, in 1999 and 2000, landmines and UXO
killed at least 57 people and wounded 121 more; all but two of the
victims were civilians. Estimates for landmine and UXO casualties prior
to 1999 are more than 2,500 killed and over 2,200 injured.
Since 1998, the United States
has provided approximately $21,632,146 in humanitarian assistance to
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen (see chart). This allocation of
funding has supported mine action initiatives such as mine detection,
deminer training, mine clearance, mine awareness, and survivor
assistance in each of the five countries.
Mine awareness initiatives are
sponsored in most of the Middle Eastern countries. In Yemen, mine
awareness teams began educating the local populace on demining efforts
in 1999. In addition, the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) sponsors a mine awareness program in Lebanon with
the support of community-based organizations and NGOs.
Surveys intended to gather
information on the nature and extent of the landmine problem have been
carried out in three of the five U.S.-assisted Middle Eastern countries.
Currently, Jordan is conducting Level Two Surveys along the Syrian
border to assist in further developing demining strategies.
Additionally, a survey conducted by Lebanonís Landmines Resource
Center in 1998 and 1999 confirmed that minefields and suspected
minefield locations include agricultural areas, former battlefields, and
cities and villages located along old demarcation lines. Although some
minefields are marked and fenced off, many others remain unmarked. In
2000, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) conducted a
Level One Survey in Yemen. The survey identified 592 mine-affected
communities in 18 of Yemenís 19 Governorates. The results of the
survey proved to be effective in determining demining priorities.
Deminer Training and Mine
In April 2000, the government
of Egypt signed a decree officially establishing a civilian-led National
Demining Committee. From May 17 through August 15, 2001, the Department
of Defenseís train-the-trainer program in Egypt focused on mine
detection and disposal, survey and information management. Training also
included a leadership and operations seminar for battalion and company
commanders. Mine clearance operations are continuing in the Red Sea area
Training conducted by the U.S.
Special Operations Forces (SOF) has improved the capabilities of Jordanís
Royal Corps of Engineers in mine detection and disposal, survey and
information management. There are currently 100 deminers in the field on
a daily basis. In addition, Jordan and Israel are now discussing a
strategy to remove remaining landmines after initiating a joint effort
to clear ten Israeli-laid minefields in the Araba Valley. As of February
2000, Jordanís Royal Corps of Engineers had cleared 83,823 mines from
more than 200 minefields, restoring more than 3,000 acres of land to
The United States has supported
a demining program in Lebanon since 1998 and has contributed a total of
almost $4 million to the program. The U.S. military assisted in
establishing a National Demining Office and supported further
development through training and provision of equipment. The U.S.
military also conducted a train-the-trainer program to provide an
indigenous company of deminers capable of sustaining operations.
In 2000, U.S. funds enabled the
government of Oman to develop a survey and information management
capability to define mined areas effectively and to archive minefield
data efficiently; to enhance the curriculum at the engineer school,
which will enable it to train deminers to international standards in
demining survey, marking, and clearance operations; to purchase modern
detection and protective equipment; to develop a mine awareness
capability to support demining units at the regional and local levels;
and to train ROA medical cadre to improve initial response medical and
U.S. assistance has funded a
national demining program infrastructure and a train-the-trainer
program, conducted by U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) soldiers. In
December 1998, the first 150 Yemeni deminers graduated from the
Humanitarian Demining Training Facility in Aden. Demining and UXO
removal operations began in 1999 with the fielding of two U.S.-trained
Yemeni demining companies.
Through the World
Rehabilitation Fund, USAID implements programs aimed at preventing
landmine-related accidents and improving the physical, social, and
economic conditions of people suffering from landmine-related injuries.
One of these programs established in Lebanon will create a mine victim
rehabilitation center in Jezzine, the site of the highest concentration
of landmine survivors.
Since 1993, humanitarian
efforts by the United States have led to an increase in the area of land
restored for productive use and in the number of landmines/UXO destroyed
during demining operations. With over 600 U.S.-trained deminers, an
estimated 14.4 million sq. m of land have been cleared in the Middle
East and approximately 147,623 landmines/UXO have been destroyed. The
table below indicates this significant reduction in the threat of
landmines/UXO in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen.
Cleared (sq. m)
In 2001, the U.S. Humanitarian
Demining Program will have allocated over $5,667,346 (U.S.) to support
mine action initiatives in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen. With
continued assistance from the U.S. government and other international
donors, the goal of achieving a qualified, trained, and equipped country
program capable of sustaining its own mine action initiatives is
Stacy L. Smith
Fellow, U.S. Department of
Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs (PM/HDP)
2201 C Street, N.W., Room 3328-NS
Washington, D.C. 20250-3817
Tel: (202) 647-4998
Fax: (202) 647-4537