International Donors Come Together for Landmine Clearance in Afghanistan

The people of Afghanistan face one of the world’s most serious humanitarian challenges. This challenge is posed from the hidden hazards of landmines and unexploded munitions as a result of the 1979 Soviet invasion, several years of internal armed conflict, and the international coalition’s campaign in Afghanistan since 2001. The United States, together with our many international partners, has helped Afghanistan make significant progress. Despite this progress, much work remains before Afghanistan reaches its goal of becoming free of the impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war by 2023.  

Earlier this year, I traveled to Tajikistan, where I met with our Afghan and international partners. During my trip, I hoped to take stock of our progress to date and to coordinate with our partners on future efforts that are essential to the safety and security of communities across Afghanistan.

Deminer from the Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA) clears access to grazing land in Logar province, Afghanistan. [Photo courtesy of MCPA]

Afghan President Ghani has emphasized the priority his government puts on mine clearance, noting its ability to save lives, release land to be used productively, create jobs, and generate growth. “For more than a quarter of a century, the Mine Action Program of Afghanistan has undertaken one of the largest mine action programs in the world,” he wrote to the mine action donor support group for Afghanistan, encouraging donors to attend the Donor Coordination Workshop earlier this year in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.  While highlighting his government’s goal to achieve a mine free Afghanistan by 2023, he urged donors to consider increased investment in mine action to help meet that target date. 

Ambassador McKinley (center of panel) and Ambassador Millard (far right of panel) provide opening remarks at the second annual Afghanistan Donor and Implementing Partner Coordination Workshop in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. [State Department photo]

In addition to Afghanistan, six donor nations – Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States -- and the NGO ITF Enhancing Human Security participated in that workshop, which was hosted by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) and the Directorate of Mine Action Coordination of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority. During the workshop U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Elisabeth Millard outlined the important role Tajikistan plays in facilitating regional cooperation, training, and professional development of explosive ordnance disposal agencies from Central Asia and Afghanistan, and its collaboration with U.S. Army Central Command and other participating nations. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Michael McKinley, in welcoming participants to the workshop, underscored the opportunity for the experts and professionals gathered to discuss ways for Afghanistan to meet its mine clearance goals.  

Swiss Demining Foundation (FSD) deminers return from this high-altitude clearance site near Ghazdara village, Darwaz district, Badakhshan province, Afghanistan.  FSD employs more than 40 Afghan deminers for landmine clearance in northern Afghanistan, and through cross-border coordination, these clearance operations are logistically supported from Tajikistan. [Photo courtesy of FSD]

As a State Department officer involved in the workshop, I am grateful to the many organizations and people, including the leadership of our embassies, our colleagues at USAID, and the U.S. military, who worked together to make the three-day workshop a reality. The workshop strengthened linkages between the international donor community and the mine action implementing partners working in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It also fostered a lively exchange of views on the challenges and opportunities both in funding and operations, information which will be influential as donors consider their plans for supporting life-and-limb saving programs.     

Globally, the United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear unexploded ordnance and landmines. For more than two decades, the United States has contributed more than $2.6 billion to more than 95 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly trafficked, and indiscriminately used conventional weapons of war.  As we look ahead, we continue this work with the goal that people in Afghanistan, and everywhere, will one day know what it means "to walk the earth in safety." 

About the Author: Rodney Robideau serves as the Program Manager and Grants Officer Representative for South and Central Asia in the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. 

For more information:

  • To learn more about U.S. humanitarian demining and Conventional Weapons Destruction programs, check out the latest edition of our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety.
  • Follow the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptPM.
An Afghan demining technician tests detection equipment. [Photo courtesy of MAG America]
Posted by Rodney Robideau
July 15, 2016

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