Afghanistan’s many wars
After more than 30 years of war, Afghanistan is one of the countries in the world most affected by landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). The origins of this misery derive from the period of Soviet occupation, but the subsequent civil war between the Afghan government and the Mujahedin movement, conflicts between various warlords and the Taliban war against the North Alliance has all contributed to the problems of mines and ERW. The Coalition war against terror, with extensive bombing campaigns, has only added to the existing contamination.
Afghanistan is one of the most severely mine and ERW affected countries in the world, but also has one of the largest and most established demining programmes in the world, with an existence for more than twenty years. In 2012 the Implementing partners of the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan cleared 1,175 mine fields and due to re-survey of mine fields cancelled 273. These activities resulted in the release of 80m2 of land. At the beginning of 2013, there were 5,931 suspected hazardous areas remaining to be cleared and over one million Afghans still live within 500 meters of mine fields. Despite the successful existence of the MAPA for more than 21 years, 2012 had 372 casualties due to mine and ERW.
The Afghan government is a signatory to the Ottawa Mine ban treaty, and originally had a deadline on compliance with art. 5 in March 2013. Unable to comply with this demand, the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan and the IPs of the MAPA on behalf of the government of Afghanistan prepared a ten year extension request. This ten years extension request has officially been approved by the state parties to the Ottawa MBT, meaning that Afghanistan is currently targeting a country free of mine and ERW by March 2023.
DDG’s Assistance to IDPs, returning refugees and mine and ERW affected communities
DDG has operated in Afghanistan since 1999 and has recovered and disposed of up to 24,000 landmines and 940,000 pieces of unexploded ordnances. The beneficiaries of these years of operation include recently returned refugees from Iran and Pakistan, vulnerable rural populations of Afghanistan and the wider humanitarian and development community.
DDG has ten years of operational experience in the central region of Afghanistan. The Central Region has been identified by the Government of Afghanistan as an area to be developed. This has been decided in order to allow the safe return of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) back to normality and to allow these returnees to begin to rebuild their lives and thereby take part in the development of Afghanistan. Thus DDG focuses on the Central Region, with Parwan and Panjsher provinces as operational focus, to improve the conditions for socio-economic development and thereby maximizing the civilian utility output from the demining operations.
DDG runs a community based demining project in the Panjshir valley. In Panjsher province DDG is in a unique position of good relations with the authorities and the local communities, partly due to recruitment and employment of local staff. The intent with this project is to utilize the concept of ’community based demining’, known to instill a strong sense of pride and ownership of clearance operations, and as it is known that the dollor paid out in salary turns over several times in the local community benefiting socio-economic developments.
During 2008 and 2009 DDG assumed a lead role in the North of Afghanistan at the request of the Mine Action Co-ordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACCA). In order to meet the demands on mine action in the North DDG focused all assets funded by SIDA in this region.
DDG’s capacity to assist the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan
DDG Afghanistan’s programming works to benefit the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA), led by the Government of Afghanistan. DDG maintains a HQ in Kabul and two Field Offices; one in the Central and one in the Northern Region. The HQ provides overall management and support to the entire program in Afghanistan, while the Field Offices provide support and monitoring to the operational assets deployed within their area of responsibility. DDG currently employs 5 International expats, 592 Afghan nationals and operational assets include:
- 41 x Clearance Sections
- 1 x Mechanical Demining Unit (Mini-Mine wolf and Excavator)
- 4 x Survey Teams
- 4 x MRE & Impact Monitoring Teams
With a combination of assets DDG is able to target actual mined ground with its clearance sections while also releasing remaining suspect ground quickly, efficiently and safely through mechanical means. Survey teams will through ‘polygon survey’ accurately define the limitations of tasks for an effective deployment of clearance assets. Mine Risk Education teams are deployed in affected communities before and during clearance operations to raise the awareness of the threat and risk of mine and ERW. This is known as an effective way of mitigating the devastating effect mines and ERW have on people’s lives.
An antipersonnel IED that is victim-activated—one that explodes on contact by a person—is considered an antipersonnel mine and prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty. (Ottawa Convention).