Afghanistan

Country Demining Report

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published
Update
4 Nov 96 - Up to one person an hour is killed by landmines and shells in battered Kabul, demining experts said Monday, with death and injuries from the weapons up dramatically since the Taliban militia ousted the Afghan Government in September.

Still more worrying is that children are the main victims of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) which cause horrifying injuries if they fail to kill, the US-based aid agency Save the Children added here. "The number of mine and UXO blast victims has increased dramatically by more than 300 percent in October from the previous month," the agency's field director Zabiullah Asmaie said.

"Of all mine and UXO-related injuries and deaths in Kabul in the past six months, 37 percent occurred in October. Children account for the majority of victims - in October alone 66 of the 85 people killed and injured were children," he added.

Ninety-four percent of reported victims of UXOs --shells, rockets, bombs and bullets fired but not detonated -- in October were children, the agency stated. (Source: AFP)

9 Oct 96 - Taliban officers said they had contained a major counter-attack in the Salang Pas through the Hindu Kush mountains by forces of former government military chief Ahmad Shah Masood, after fierce fighting. The Taliban has suffered about 270 casualties since their attempt to force a way into Panjsher began on Saturday, many of them to mines. (Source:
Reuter)

26 Sept 96 - Hospitals are overflowing with casualties in the Afghan capital Kabul as Taliban guerrillas press towards the city center, the International Committee of the Red Cross said. The "relentless" fighting had left "hundreds of wounded, including victims of landmines." (Source AFP)

16 Sept 96 - Afghan government jets bombed targets in the eastern city of Jalalabad, now held by Taliban militia rebels, on Sunday, killing five people and wounding a score of civilians, Taliban and UN sources in Pakistan said. The sources said the planes attacked the airport, the governor's palace and the nearby Spinghar Hotel from about 7:45am. They also dropped anti-personnel lines near the Behsud Bridge, about two km west of the city. (Source: Bangkok Post)

3 Sept 96 - The southwestern-bound Afghan national highway was open to civilian traffic Tuesday after being closed for one day because of factional fighting, witnesses said. "There has been little shelling today and traffic started from early morning moving in both directions," a security guard at the Kabul government frontlines in Arghandeh village told AFP.

Pro-Kabul factions are dug-in on multiple frontlines some 25 kilometres southwest of Kabul at Arghandeh village, facing their Taliban militia rivals across a three-kilometre heavily mined no-man's land. (Source: AFP)

29 August 96 - A tunnel linking Kabul with northern Afghanistan, closed for two years, was re-opened to traffic on Thursday under an agreement between the government and an opposition militia, witnesses said. The 1.7 mile Soviet-built tunnel opened in 1964, which passes through the Hindu Kush mountains at an altitude of 3,363 metres was the main supply route for Soviet troops when they occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Witnesses said wrecked tanks and vehicles littered both sides of the heavily mined roads. Mines have been removed from the road itself, but experts of the Halo Trust mine clearance agency said it would take a week to clear the roadsides. (Source:Reuter)

20 May 96 - One of Afhganistan's most crucial road arteries linking besieged Kabul with the north of the country reopened for humanitarian aid supplies after being shut for two years. The reopening for aid convoys came after the Kabul government and northern warlord general Abdul Rashid Dostum agreed to demine and open the road running through their common front.

Five massive ICRC trucks gingerly crossed a three kilometer stretch of the Salang road which the British demining group Halo Trust had cleared of deadly mines. Deminer lined the route to ensure none of the trucks left the road which is still bordered by scores of visible mines. (Source: Agence France Presse)

17 April 96 - As international aid dwindles to Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan's northern province, Pakistani officials are becoming increasingly concerned at alleged involvement of refugees in local crime. Relief workers, however, are quick to point out that refugees are being blamed unfairly for many domestic problems.

Gur Sher trundles a wheel-barrow filled with rusted shells and mines along a row of mud houses in another camp. He brings them over from Afghanistan to sell here as scrap metal, but insists he can detect uneploded mines.

Run by the Sandy Gall Afghanistan Appeal (SGAA) the programme still provides artifical limbs and assistance to people who have had limbs blown off by mines or shelling at three workshops, two of which are in Afghanistan. Nearly 500 people have been given artificial limbs or orthopaedic help after being paralysed or losing a limb in the first two months of this year alone.

"There are still millions of unexploded mines, planted during the Soviet occupation, all over the countryside," says Khalid of the SGAA. "That is one factor preventing many people from returning." (Source: AFP)

20 Mar 96 - The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Afghan Red Crescent are preparing a large-scale campaign to increase awareness of the danger posed by mines. The aim is to help peasants and local leaders to become more effective in facing this constant danger wherever it arises. (Source: ICRC News)

28 Feb 96 - Germany signed and agreement with a UN humanitarian aid coordination office on Wednesday to give more than $2 million for mine clearance in Afghanistan. The amount will fund a centre using dogs to find mines and unexploded ordnance buried in the ground or in the rubble of buildings, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) said. (Source: Reuters)

23 Feb 96 - The Norwegian government has decided to contribute 18 million kroner (2.83 million dollars) to Norwegian Chirch Aid for emergency humanitarian relief to Afghanistan, the foreign ministry said. "Persisting war actions in the Kabul area and the concentration of refugees and internal refugees in different areas of Afghanistan make it necessary to continue delivering humanitarian efforts to the country," the ministry said. "The danger of mines in the country is still great and will demand serious efforts in the years to come, as will the restructuring of the country's infrastructure," it said. (Source: Agence France-Presse)

29 Jan. 96 - The government reported that the supply route to Maidan Shahr to the west had been cleared of landmines and could be used by civilian traffic. The city continues to be bombed and shelled as the Taliban offensive nears a climax. UNOCHA reports new laying of mines in the area of Kabul city, site of a stand-off between the Taliban insurgency and the forces loyal to President Rabbbani. Although UNOCHA is confident the mines have not been laid in large numbers, officials expressed concern that previously demined areas could be mined, and that the laying of mines might accelerate as the fighting worsens.

Overview

1996

21 March - In 1995, the UNOCHA Mine Clearance Programme, in its seventh year of operation, gained access to areas previously inaccessable for security reasons. Kabul was the most seriously affected of these areas with an additional 11 square kilometres of mine fields identified, marked and mapped. 25% of the total demining effort available was redirected to respond to the landmine emergency in the city of Kabul, which will remain a focal point for demining in 1996.

Over 530 square kilometers of Afghanistan have now been identified as contaminated by Mines and UXOs. Some 149 square kilometers have been identified as priority one, or areas which have immediate impact on people's lives (residential areas, commercial areas, agricultural land, irrigation canals, roads and grazing areas).

The UNOCHA Mine Clearance Programme is now the largest civilian humanitarian demining programme in the world. Over the past six years the Programme has:

* cleared a total of 80 square kilometers of high priority area;

* destroyed over 200,000 devices (mines and unexploded ordnance);

* surveyed a total of 110 square kilometers;

* provided mine awareness briefings to three million people;

* trained and employed over 3,100 employees.

Most of the high priority mined areas around the regional centres of herat, Takhar and Jalalabad and other provinces and cities such as Badghis, Baghlan, Bamyan, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Nimroz, Oruzgan and Wardak have been cleared. Hundreds of thousands of refugees waiting in the neighboring countries to return to these areas, especially to Beghlan, Herat, Jalalabad, Kunar and Khost either have returned or at least do not see mines as the main obstacle to their return, as they did in the early 1990s.

Although the war in Afghanistan affected the whole country, the provinces bordering Iran and Pakistan (the western, southern and eastern parts) were the most heavily mined. Security belts were established around the major cities close to the Iranian and Pakistani borders, such as Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Khost. The same tactic was followed in strategic places outside the cities, such as airports, government installations and power stations. (Source: UNOCHA Demining Workplan for 1996)

1995

Afghanistan, laden with an estimated 10 million mines, has been memorably described as resembling one big minefield. Grazing lands, waterways, schools, paths, villages and cities are infested with mainly AP mines. Mines are responsible for depopulating vast tracts of the countryside, affecting food supplies into the cities and crop harvests.

The mine infestation affects both rural and urban populations. Kabul is the third largest mined area in the country, mainly due to the Taliban winter offensive of 1994/95, when many neighborhoods were mined after residents fled to safe havens outside the capital. The extent of the problem became apparent after government forces restored order and residents returned unaware of the danger. In Apr. 95 ICRC recorded 1,500 mine casualties.

The Mine Clearance Programme (MCP) rushed 11 clearance teams into Kabul, in addition to seven survey teams and five dog teams. Halo Trust has four teams in Kabul. Demining in Kabul is slow because so much of the city is in ruins. Mined areas are full of metal fragments and shrapnel, rendering useless mine detectors. Mines have been found on rooftops and in underground passageways.

In 1995 Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) reported that in a survey of households in 4,990 villages, 2,277 refugee families, and 1,432 resettled families, mines severely impacted on agricultural activities. "In the rural villages surveyed, the food production of 43% of the families interviewed was affected by landmines. Landmine contamination prevents the cultivation of additional land totalling 150% of the agricultural land currently under cultivation." Eighty percent of families cited the presence of mines on their land, and 16% cited mines affecting their irrigation channels. Among the village families, 40,039 animals were killed by mines.

The national infrastructure is seriously impacted by mines. UNOCHA estimated in mid-95 that 327 stretches of road still awaited clearance, a total of 14,731,114 sqm. The estimated cost of demining roads is .80 cents per sqm. Electrical pylons are mined. The country's largest dam, Kajakai, was out of operation for ten years because it was mined. Power pylons linking that dam to Kandahar, and the Sarobi dam to Kabul, are mined.

The repatriation of refugees back to Afghanistan is often contingent on landmines. In a 1995 VVAF field survey, 18% of refugee families in Pakistan said that mines were responsible for them leaving. Thirty-one percent reported mines preventing them from growing crops. Humanitarian organisations report mine incidents increasing after refugees have returned from exile. "During the mass return in 1992, casualty rates jumped to two or three times the rate recorded during the same period in the previous year," reports VVAF. "One study carried out during a six month period in Peshawar in 1992 indicated that 77% Of mine victims were returnees."

Casualties

October 1996 - In Afghanistan, 2,000-4,000 people die every year as a result of mines an UXO, with a far greater number of amputations. (Source: UN/MAC)

Feb 1996 - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has complied comparative statistics showing the magnitude of the land mine problem over the last five years. Medical reports reveal that 1,606 (close to 20%) out of a total of 9,050 war-wounded patients admitted to various medical facilities in 1995 were mine victims. These figures are incomplete because they do not include data from all Afghanistan's hospitals. Moreover, many incidents are unreported, so the total number of mine victims - dead and wounded - in the country must be estimated at about 4,000 for 1995 alone.

The ICRC's "Evolution of mine warfare" tables show two peaks of mine casualties: one in 1992 and another in 1995. The first corresponds to a large influx of returning refugees, many of whom unknowingly entered mined areas in their home regions. The second peak represents an upsurge in fighting between the Kabul government and the Taliban movement. This involved the widespread use of mines in the city of Kabul itself, resulting in heavy casualties among both combatants and civilians. (Source: ICRC News)

1993 - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has compiled statistics of Afghan mine casualties from its hospitals in Pakistan. In a study of 5,189 registered mine injured patients, 29% had stepped on mines; 48% were hit by mine fragments; 5% were holding the mine; and another 18% were injured in other ways. Statistics confirm that recently returned refugees are at the highest risk from death or injury from mines.

Of 720 people admitted to an ICRC hospital in Peshawar in 1992, 66.1% had recently been repatriated and 36.8% of those had been back in Afghanistan less than three months. The study asked patients what they were doing when they were injured: 20% were working in fields or fetching water; 15% were traveling 13% were fighting; 8% were playing with a mine; 4% were demining.

Females were 7.3% of casualties; males of 15 years or less were 19.8%; males over 50 were 4.2%. The remainder were males between 16 and 50. ICRC estimated that 28.5% of all mine casualties lost one or both legs.

VVAF 1995 Survey:

Of families interviewed, 13.6% reported a family member involved in a mine incident. 53% of mine casualties were wounded while tending their animals, 11% fighting, 10% moving within camp, and 7% gathering wood.

UNICEF:

A national mine survey covering 979 villages of Afghanistan's 19,924 villages reported that between 1979-93 there were 20,316 deaths and 15,985 injuries caused by mines. An estimated 20-25 people are injured or killed by mines each day. Of these 8,000 yearly casaulties, approximately half will die of their wounds.

Locations

General Locations: Mines and unexploded ordnance are located in almost every conceivable type of terrain in Afghanistan. Major military and civilian positions were mined, including the cities of Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Khost. Mines pose a big danger to refugees returning home by passing through provinces bordering Pakistan and Iran.

According to UNOCHA mines were most usually deployed along unused footpaths, tracks and roads; on the verges of tracks and roadways; in vehicle turn-around points; near culverts and bridge abutments; along damaged building walls; in the doorways and rooms of deserted houses; in and around wells and access points; around military posts; on or near destroyed vehicles; in areas where people might hide.

"Minefields laid by the Soviets and the previous Afghan Government forces were generally recorded and catalogued according to military procedures," reported UNOCHA in 1994. "However the vast majority of mines laid by the mujahideen were not recorded or laid to any specific pattern. Moreover, the records lost much of their significance as the many areas were fought over, and won and lost by both sides during the war."

Affected Areas: By 31 May 94 UNOCHA had entered 2,353 minefields in its database and produced detailed maps of 1,334. The UN estimated in 1993 that 162 of Afghanistan's 356 districts were affected by mines;177 districts were mine free;and 17 were still unsurveyed. Minefields constituted 466 sq km; 118 sq km were designated as high priority for mine removal. In that report by the Mine Clearance Planning Agency Report of the National Survey of the Mine Situation, five provinces out of 29 surveyed had the largest amount of total mines: Helmand 26%; Kandahar 10.4%; Paktia 9.6%; Logar 8.6%; Herat 7.25%. The survey found that agricultural land accounted for 20.2% of mined areas, irrigation systems 6%, roads 2.4%, residential areas 1.2%, grazing land 75.6%.

The survey broke down figures for the most affected provinces. Helmand: five high priority minefields; 0.76% of roads; 13.3% of agricultural land; .05% of irrigation systems; 86.5% of grazing land; .09% of residential land. Kandahar: 47 high priority minefields; .43% of roads; 36% of agricultural land; .66% of irrigation systems; 60.5% of grazing land; 2.3% of residential areas. Paktia: 118 high priority minefields; 1.75% roads; 12% of agricultural land; .07% of irrigation systems; 5.5% of grazing land; .45% of residential land. Logar: 53 high priority minefields; 5% of roads; 17% of agricultural land; no irrigation systems; 76% of grazing land; 1% of residential areas. Herat: 86 high priority minefields; 2.5% of roads; 51% of agricultural land; 1.7% of irrigation systems; 43% of grazing land; 2% of residential land.

Number of Mines

10 million land mines. Figure provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA).

Country Statistics

Existing mines:
AT 2,000,000
AP 8,000,000
total 10,000,000
Cleared mines:
AT
AP 115,240
total 363,405
UXO Cleared: 248,165
Land Cleared: 152,758,149

Demining Capacity

See Demining Report for Afghanistan.

Background

Internal political unrest and the strategic ambitions of regional powers are responsible for Afghanistan's mine problem. Afghanistan, long prized for its strategic location straddling the old commerce routes of Central Asia, is bordered by Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China. There are 29 provinces and 356 districts (of which 162 are reported to be mine affected).

Afghanistan fell victim to superpower rivalry and regional instability in the 1970s. Following a devastating drought, the monarchy was overthrown in 1973 and Afghanistan drifted leftwards. A series of failed attempts to socialise the agricultural base increased rural-dwellers resentment. After several bloody power struggles, the Soviet Union intervened decisively at Christmas 1979 in support of hardline Marxists. From then until a ceasefire was declared in 1988 Russian-backed government forces held the urban centers against mujahideen rebel assaults.

Government forces were especially partial to the use of millions of small, plastic, Russian-made land mines to protect their positions. Mine clearance teams in Afghanistan report finding literally dozens of types of landmines, mainly from the ex-USSR, but also from Belgium, Italy and the UK. Russian mines include the POMZ-2, TM-62M and the PMN, also known as the 'black widow'. The most infamous mine used during the Soviet Union's occupation period was the so-called 'butterfly' mine. Helicopter crews dropped untold numbers (figures range into the millions) of the small mines from the air. They were designed to flutter to the ground without exploding, and to thousands of children they resembled butterflys or toys. But one wing of the mine was filled with liquid explosive, designed to ignite and explode on contact, severing hands.

Deminers have found the Valmara 69 mine, made in Italy in Afghanistan. The Valmara 69 is a bounding mine. When stepped on it leaps 45 cm into the air, and shatters into more than 1000 metal splinters, causing casualties within a 25 meter radius. There was also widespread use of AT mines, which have the capacity to destroy vehicles of any size and kill and injure dozens of victims.

During the fighting an estimated 50% of Afghan villages were destroyed, and an estimated 25% of paved roads ruined. Crop harvests were seriously affected. Afghanistan is now rated by UNDP as 171 out of 173 countries in terms of poverty and development.

In 1989 the last Russian forces withdrew. The Najibullah government collapsed in Apr. 92 and the winning factions soon fell out. Civil war resumed and in 1994 the radical Taliban faction steadily swept across Afghanistan. In Mar 95 the radical Taliban insurgency was held back from the gates of Kabul after a winter siege that left the capital heavily mined and emptied of 500,000 people. A second Taliban offensive began in Aug 95. Government forces were pushed out of western Afghanistan and Kabul entered a second winter under siege.

Domestic

LAND MINE BAN - 5 Aug 95 - Acting Defence Minister Qanouni said that the government would support an international campaign to ban land mines. "I can assure you that there will be no mines from our side against civilians or in civilian areas," he told ministers and demining organizations gathered to launch an Afghan anti-mine campaign. The minister said that government forces would still use mines because the opposition did. But he agreed to ban them from non-military sites, and said pro-government forces would map and mark all minefields and remove them "once the need for mines had passed."

Inhumane Weapons Convention

Signature: 10 Apr 81

Moratorium on the export of anti-personnel mines

no Mines found in Afghanistan and their origins

NR-127 Belgium
Type 69 China
Type 72 non-met China
PP-MI-SR Czech Republic
PP-MI-SR-II Czech Republic
PT-MI-K Czech Republic
Pt-Mi-K Czech Republic
SB-33 Italy
SH-55 Italy
TC-2.4 Italy
TC-3.6 Italy
MD-2 Pakistan
P2-Mark 3 Pakistan
G-Vata-6 Russian Federation
MON-100 Russian Federation
MON-200 Russian Federation
MON-50 Russian Federation
MON-90 Russian Federation
OZM-3 Russian Federation
OZM-4 Russian Federation
OZM-72 Russian Federation
OZM-UUK-AP Russian Federation
PDM-2 Russian Federation
PFM-1 Russian Federation
PFM-15 Russian Federation
PGMDM Russian Federation
PMD-6 Russian Federation
PMD-6M Russian Federation
PMN Russian Federation
PMN-2 Russian Federation
PMP Russian Federation
POMZ Russian Federation
POMZ-2 Russian Federation
POMZ-2M Russian Federation
TC-6-AT Russian Federation
TM-41 Russian Federation
TM-46 Russian Federation
TM-57 Russian Federation
TM-62 Russian Federation
TM-62M Russian Federation
TMB-44AT Russian Federation
TMDB Russian Federation
TMK-2 Russian Federation
TMN-46 Russian Federation
VS-MK2 Singapore
Mark-2 United Kingdom
Mark-7 United Kingdom
PMA-1A Yugoslavia
TMA-5 Yugoslavia
RAP-2 Zimbabwe