An improvised explosive device (IED) is “a device placed or fabricated in an improvised manner incorporating explosive material, destructive, lethal, noxious, incendiary, pyrotechnic materials or chemicals designed to destroy, disfigure, distract or harass. They may incorporate military stores but are normally devised from non-military components.”
Over the last decade a clear trend has been witnessed in the increased use of IEDs by armed groups. This increase has been simultaneous to a worldwide decline in the production, storage and use of commercially manufactured anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines. These two factors working together have magnified the impact that IEDs as a category of explosive ordnance (EO) has on post-conflict settings. In many post-conflict environments, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, IEDs now cause more civilian casualties than commercially manufactured landmines.
Enduring post-conflict IED contamination creates an environment of sustained insecurity and hinders recovery. The use of IEDs against civilians affects the entire spectrum of their human rights, including the right to life, physical security, education and health. Moreover, the socio-economic impact on goals for sustainable development can be significant given that IEDs impede commerce, contribute to internal displacement and refugee flows, obstruct humanitarian responses and civil society activity, and the practice of good governance and reconstruction. Reducing the impact of IEDs involves close cooperation and coordination between the diplomatic, rule of law, economic and information levers of power to restrict or undermine their use, protect the population, enhance their security freedoms, and restore confidence. Mine action (MA) therefore plays a significant part in facilitating the recovery of communities experiencing IED contamination in the wake of conflict.
The GICHD has developed this IED Clearance Good Practice Guide with the aim of sharing information across the MA sector to assist in safe, effective and efficient IED search and disposal activities as part of a broader MA IED clearance process. The guide provides technical content related to specific techniques and procedures but is not intended to replace training or technical publications supplied by equipment providers.
A single MA worksite contaminated with IEDs can encompass multiple different types of ‘space’; from buildings and other man-made structures, to open areas, roads and confined spaces. Secondary hazards (such as oil and gas pipelines, fuel stations, chemical containers, human waste and electricity lines) can also contaminate these spaces, making survey and clearance challenging tasks. IEDs can be laid in defined patterns, such as those associated with conventional minefields, or in a more focused manner to deny specific areas, protect supply routes, degrade clearance operations or instil fear within the local community. The technical ‘threat’ of IEDs may also vary from ‘simple’ to ‘complex’ within a relatively small geographical area (complexity depends on the capability of an armed group and the availability of material), or it can be relatively consistent over a much larger geographical area, such as improvised minefields designed to slow the advance of security forces during a conflict.
This guide provides tools to mitigate risk and exploit opportunities in order to maximise efficiency during MA operations where IED clearance is being conducted. With such improvisation in design and complexity comes a requirement to employ techniques and procedures which provide confidence that “all reasonable effort” has been achieved and that the specified clearance parameters will and ultimately have been met. Although not a quality management (QM) guide, this publication provides a link to help explain “all reasonable effort” in relation to IED clearance.
This guide is intended to be used to inform the development of National Mine Action Standards (NMAS) and organisational level Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), including staff training and policy related to IEDs. Critically, due to the ‘improvised’ nature of IEDs, the activities associated with a clearance process must also incorporate effective threat assessment to form part of a wider platform from which nationally led responses can be established. This is not just a threat assessment of the device itself, but also the potential threat surrounding the team task site. Nor is threat assessment bound to the tactical level – it must also be considered at the operational and national levels, such as determining the security environment in which MA operates, and if national support mechanisms are in place to sustain the activities. Based on information collected and analysed by MA organisations, the ‘threat assessment’ provides confidence in decision-making at all levels.