Landmines, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, were deployed extensively by in Afghanistan following the commencement of the Soviet occupation in 1979 and the country became one of the most landmine contaminated countries of the world. It didn’t take long for the Mujahideen to realise the effectiveness of these weapons and they started to deploy them as well. In addition to landmines however, the large-scale battles that were fought, along with the interminable skirmishing meant the countless items of unexploded ordnance were left either on the surface or buried. The Soviets use of air delivered weapons – and later the US military and NATO forces – added to the burden of unexploded ordnance.
It has been said by some, that the rate of failure of explosive weapons averages out at between 8 and 14% depending on type, so for example, for every 100 artillery projectiles that are fired, 14 may not function and remain as hazards that could endure for centuries. In Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of explosive and pyrotechnic weapons were used and are still being used.
Weapons of war fought on land may be divided into 5 loosely defined categories as follows:
All of which were deployed in Afghanistan. And then there are many types of air dropped weapons and also improvised weapons and booby traps which were deployed by the various opposing forces.
More recently the Taliban have also embraced the used of improvised weapons such as buried, victim operated explosive devices of various kinds.
The Second World War lasted for about five years, yet nearly 80 years later in every country touched by it, explosive remnants of war continue to present danger to life wherever they exist. The war in Afghanistan has lasted 40 years and is still ongoing. It is against this background the Norwegian Peoples Aid, along with its donors and implementing partners, strives to protect civilians, to normalise life and to remove the fear of death and mutilation.
And the battle is being won, the numbers of anti-personnel mines threatening the population of Afghanistan has been vastly reduced over the last 20 years, thanks not only to donors and implementing partners but also to the Ban the Landmine Movement. But the fight continues.
Norwegian People's Aid in Afghanistan
NPA has been working in Afghanistan since 2017, when the United States of America (US) requested assistance with its Political-Military Affairs, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PMWRA) program there. The PMWRA program specifically addresses, among other things:
- Increasing civilian security through the clearance of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and the return of land to productive use.
- Reducing the availability of weapons including Man Portable Air Defence Weapons (MANPADS), landmines, other missiles and Explosive Ordnance.
NPA responded to the request because the stated aims of the PMWRA program are directly in line with the NPA stated aim of Protecting Civilians from Explosive Weapons.