Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs
July 10, 2002
Humanitarian Mine Action Subgroup Minutes of June 14, 2002 Meeting
The Humanitarian Mine Action Subgroup of the Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations met on June 14, 2002, to consider several humanitarian mine action proposals. PM/HDP briefed recent operations of the Quick Reaction Demining Force (QRDF) in Sri Lanka and Sudan. PM/HDP also noted that small State-DoD teams would visit each country in June-July and subsequently make a recommendation to the PCC concerning possible follow-on humanitarian mine action programs. The Subgroup agreed to conduct a Policy Assessment Visit (PAV) to Georgia in the August-September timeframe. Subgroup attendees also received information briefings on Afghanistan, the on-going revision of the NADR Strategic Plan, and on recent partnership activities.
PAVs to Sri Lanka and Sudan: The Mozambique-based QRDF is now operating in Sri Lanka and just completed a deployment to Sudan, two countries formerly off-limits to the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program. In both cases the engagement was deemed critical to the pursuit of peace initiatives and U.S. Government policy.
A QRDF advance party visited Sri Lanka in early April, followed by a full-deployment on April 20. The work of the QRDF took place on behalf of both sides in the recent conflict, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), clearing routes to facilitate the return of some 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDP) to the Jaffna Peninsula area. The QRDF’s mission will end in August. The GoSL has asked for continued humanitarian demining assistance through the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. The QRDF advance party report makes a full-scale PAV unnecessary. There will be a small, State-led PAV in July, with recommendations to follow. It was emphasized that because FY 02 Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related (NADR) activities funds are fully committed, whatever decision regarding a possible Sri Lanka program, there may be a gap between the conclusion of the QRDF deployment and any follow-on mine action.
The QRDF began work in Sudan on May 18, working through a joint military commission representing the Sudanese Government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on clearing roads to facilitate the return of IDP and the delivery of humanitarian goods. Sudan has requested humanitarian mine action assistance through the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum. Due to a thorough report by the QRDF advance party (which included PM/HDP staff), a full PAV will not be required. The PCC Subgroup agreed to a small PAV (DOS-led, with DoD participation) in late June or early July. The PAV will then make a recommendation to the Subgroup on the appropriate U.S. Government response to the Sudan Government’s request.
State and DoD Subgroup members noted caveats to possible programs in Sudan and Sri Lanka. In both cases, the peace process must be considered fragile. Funding new programs from the NADR account will require freeing money by cutting back or closing out programs elsewhere. DoD noted that it is unclear whether the relevant U.S. military Combat Commands will be able to release assets for participation in these programs. The participation of Special Operations Forces (SOF) in mine action programs must be included in the training cycle and may require lead times of up to a year.
Georgia: Georgia’s extensive landmine problem springs both from separatist activity in Abkhazia and Ossetia and from the Soviet legacy, especially around former Soviet military installations. The Government of Georgia (GoG) requested humanitarian demining assistance through the U.S. Embassy in April 1999. The U.S. response then was to defer a decision on a regular country program (due mainly to instability in Georgia) but invite the GoG to participate in the Beecroft Initiative, a multilateral training program with Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Beecroft Initiative, which concluded in November 2000, has been successful in Georgia. The 20 Georgians trained as instructors have in turn trained 34 others, giving Georgia a force of 54 trained deminers. Additionally, in 2001, the IWG approved funding for a HALO Trust mine action project in Abkhazia.
The recent creation of a U.S. Train and Equip program in Georgia, to bolster the GoG’s counter-terrorist capabilities has prompted the PCC Subgroup to reconsider the GoG’s 1999 request for mine action assistance. The Subgroup approved sending a full PAV to Georgia in the August-September timeframe.
Afghanistan: PM/HDP noted that the UN wants the NADR-funded technical support team now operating in Afghanistan to stay another six months. The RONCO team is working on a six-month contract due to terminate in July, and an additional six-month extension will cost from USD 1.6 million to USD 1.8 million. HDP also noted that the NADR account is completely committed, and that even if a budget supplemental comes from Congress, it would not be in time to extend the RONCO tract without interruption.
Interagency Strategic Framework for Humanitarian Demining and the NADR Strategic Plan: PM/HDP is currently revising the Interagency Working Group Plan for Humanitarian Demining. The revised document will be called the Interagency Strategic Framework for Humanitarian Demining. PM/HDP is also revising the NADR Strategic Plan. The revised NADR Strategic Plan will stress the need to increase support to countries most severely affected by landmines; to accelerate to mine-safe status those countries nearing that plateau; and, to better balance overall U.S. policy interests (not just relying on the humanitarian assistance component of the National Security Strategy) when determining appropriate levels of NADR humanitarian demining assistance.
Partnership Activities: PM’s Office of Mine Action Initiatives and Partnerships PM/MAIP provided an update on ongoing activities. DOS will co-host with Rotary International a two-day conference in Seattle, Washington on September 30-October 1. The purpose of the conference is to inform and engage Rotarians from around the United States and abroad and facilitate their connection with mine action Non-Governmental Organizations. The goal is to promote further Rotary support of demining programs.
PM/MAIP also had further discussions with Disney Productions on a possible IMAX film on demining, which would be produced as a fund-raising tool for humanitarian mine action. Disney Productions would also market and distribute the film.