International Conference Expands Support for Clearing Explosive Hazards in Iraq

The United States is committed to building a strong partnership with a free, democratic, and secure Iraq. Our partners in Iraq have made significant progress against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), thanks in part to U.S. security assistance and support from the Global Coalition to Combat ISIL. However, the devastation and humanitarian toll caused by ISIL terrorism will last long after the group is defeated on the battlefield. As Iraqi families begin to return to their homes, they are confronted with hazards from unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as deliberate mining and booby-trapping of their communities by ISIL. On July 20, the United States joined with Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan to co-host a Pledging Conference in Washington, D.C. in support of Iraq to help confront this challenge, and the related issues of humanitarian support and stabilization. 

Communities across Iraq face danger from an estimated 10 to 15 million landmines and pieces of UXO. On top of these existing hazards, Iraqis now have to contend with the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) created by ISIL. Homes have been rigged with explosives by ISIL, and schools and playgrounds are rife with explosive devices. Public utilities cannot be accessed because of ISIL-placed IEDs and hospital corridors are littered with explosive devices that are designed to kill and maim anyone who encounters them. In Ramadi alone, the United Nations (UN) estimates ISIL left behind thousands of IEDs. These new challenges make the United States and international community’s work to support the people of Iraq more essential than ever.

Since 2003, the United States has invested more than $300 million, under the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction program, toward the clearance and safe disposal of landmines, UXO, and excess conventional weapons and munitions in Iraq. In 2015 alone, we worked in partnership with Iraq to destroy more than 61,979 pieces of UXO and at-risk munitions, clear more than 65 million square meters of land, and provide risk education to more than 38,000 Iraqi men, women and children.

This year, after Iraqi forces cleared the city of Ramadi, we announced an additional $5 million in assistance to clear explosive hazards through a contract with Janus Global Operations, one of the world’s leading demining companies. Working in partnership with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, Anbar Governor al-Rawi, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and the United Nations Development Program’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS), Janus began efforts to survey several Ramadi neighborhoods as well as the city’s main water station in Tamim in order to estimate the level of UXO, abandoned explosive ordnance, and IED contamination.  

U.S. supported Iraqi personnel from Spirit of Soccer warn displaced families about potential dangers from landmines and UXO. [Photo courtesy of Spirit of Soccer]

U.S. support has saved countless lives and revitalized economic and agricultural development throughout Iraq.  But the needs in Iraq over the next two years will be staggering. The reports from Anbar and Ninewa in recent days on the grave humanitarian situation for those displaced by ISIL are just the most recent reminders of the human toll of this conflict on vulnerable civilians. Over the coming months, humanitarian costs could climb to more than $1 billion a year, particularly as Iraqi forces prepare operations to liberate Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

Through its cooperation with the Iraqi government and the Global Coalition, the UN established the Fund for Immediate Stabilization (FFIS) in Iraq, which supports the implementation of rapid stabilization projects, including clearance of explosive hazards. FFIS has been successfully employed in Tikrit, Ramadi, Sinuni, Rabia, al-Dawr, Mkeishifa and Sa’adiyah. The 2016 Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan calls for $861 million to support frontline humanitarian programs, but it is only 38 percent funded to date. Due to the conflict and upheaval since January 2014, more than 3.3 million people are now displaced throughout Iraq, more than half of whom are children. Across the country, over 10 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.  The UN has already closed dozens of life-saving programs and has warned that without immediate additional funding, it will be forced to close dozens more.

Member of an Iraqi clearance team with his partner “Barrett,” a Mine Detection Dog provided by the U.S.-supported NGO, Marshall Legacy Institute. [Photo Courtesy of MLI]

The July 20 Pledging Conference raised more than $2 billion to address the challenges faced by the Iraqi people and to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIL  in Iraq. Funds raised at the conference will support a variety of FFIS humanitarian and stabilization projects, including clearance of explosive hazards. More than ten nations made over $80 million in new pledges for demining efforts in Iraq. This support will provide approximately three-quarters of the total amount of funding the United Nations estimates is required for one year of demining activities in Iraq. The United States made a substantial pledge during the conference, and we look to other nations to join us in this effort. Together, we can work to ensure that all Iraqis can live free from the devastation caused by the explosive remnants of war.

About the Author: Major General Michael Rothstein serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Plans, Programs, and Operations in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

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Comments

Comments

Curtis F.
|
North Carolina, USA
August 7, 2016
I was with the J-7, Corp of Engineers, CEA and CMC (Cash and UXO) mitigation programs from start to finish (2002-2008). During that period, we destroyed on 500K tons of material. Millions of individual items. To a laymen the numbers seem impressive but in fact I question the metrics used to bring praise to the article. It cost us 385 million a year to execute the project. I believe the numbers used to support this article are somewhat off. Number of UXO items destroyed does not provide a honest view of the work performed. From a safety viewpoint any UXOs destroyed are great. In the real world, I question of this article provides BANG for your buck. Curtis W Fulghum USA Retired, MBA
A demining technician and his dog work to clear a mine field in Iraq.
July 22, 2016

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