How Do I Disarm A Landmine After Stepping On It – A Cambodian woman tends a garden near her cottage near Samlot in 1999. A sign in the foreground warns of the danger of land mines. (David Longstreath/AP)
In the final hours of the 1991 Gulf War, US forces ran into a problem the Pentagon had created: they attacked Iraqi positions so quickly that they ran into their own mines dropped by friendly planes.
How Do I Disarm A Landmine After Stepping On It
“Due to the rapid advance of the Allies, it was possible to encounter activated Gator minefields,” said a military advisory dated Feb. 28 regarding antipersonnel and antitank mines. “Extreme care should be taken when moving/maneuvering through areas where airstrikes have taken place.”
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Since then, most of the world—the exception being the United States—has banned the production and use of landmines because of their danger to civilians long after wars have ended.
So the Trump administration’s decision this week to expand the use of landmines has confused and angered human rights and gun control groups, who say the decision puts anyone who comes into contact with the weapon at further risk.
“It’s incredibly troubling that we have such a step backwards in acceptable international norms,” Rachel Stohl, an arms control expert at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan policy think tank, told The Washington Post on Saturday. “This is one of the most inhumane weapons we know.
According to the International Coalition to Ban Landmines, nearly 20 civilians were killed or injured every day in 2018 by landmines and other unexploded ordnance such as cluster munitions. This is almost certainly a conservative number. Children made up 40 percent of the victims, the group said.
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The new policy covers anti-personnel mines, small explosive charges that are buried or placed on the ground.
They are designed to kill and injure enemy forces. They are used tactically to delay the movement of enemy units or to force combatants to take another route. This makes their movements more predictable and can help US forces target them more easily.
But they remain where they were placed, often killing, maiming and blinding civilians years or even decades later.
“War surgeons consider [mines] the worst injuries they have to treat,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
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164 countries prohibit the use and production of landmines. The United States is not one of them, but Obama-era restrictions allowed only the use of anti-personnel mines to defend the Korean Peninsula and required the destruction of camps that were not intended for that defense. Trump’s new policy repeals those regulations.
Most anti-personnel mines that pose a threat to civilians are “silent” or persistent, meaning they are made with mechanical fuses and are triggered by the victim without any other protective measures. They can remain dangerous indefinitely until someone – usually a child or farmer – stumbles upon one in the dirt. The United States does not have any of these mines in its inventory, defense officials said.
In recent decades, the US has produced “smart” or nonpersistent mines that can be set to self-destruct within a specified number of minutes, hours or days after detonation.
The Pentagon released the non-permanent mine capacity on Friday as it defended the policy change, with one official claiming “there is a 6 in 1 million chance that a US land mine will be active after a predetermined period.”
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The Pentagon said that non-permanent mines would pose a lower risk of harming civilians, but the agency did not respond to a follow-up question about how that figure was calculated.
Experts have played down that confidence, dismissing the idea of a “smart” mine as harmless or dangerous to civilians.
“Like any microchip-based electronic device, there will be errors,” said Mark Hiznay, associate arms director at Humans Rights Watch. Hiznay speculated that the Pentagon’s estimate was inflated by calculating the wear rate of electrical components, rather than actual mine placement studies.
Nearly 120,000 “smart” anti-personnel mines were used in the Persian Gulf War, the last time the US used mines in a war outside of uniform use in Afghanistan in 2002. their own literature Kuwait, according to a 2002 report by the Government Accountability Office.
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Contractors who worked in just one of the seven sectors found nearly 2,000 misdeeds, the GAO report concludes.
And given the patchy and chaotic reporting from the battlefield, it is possible that some of the American casualties attributed to enemy mines and explosives were caused by these munitions, the GAO report said.
Newer mines have been developed to reduce future harm to civilians. Spider Networked Munitions, for example, includes a “man in a loop” that allows soldiers to plant explosives and pinpoint locations on GPS.
But it is unclear whether the mines the Pentagon has authorized for use include such a control capability. The agency did not address the issue of this ability.
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Pentagon officials said commanders need the ability to use anti-personnel mines to fight conventional adversaries such as China and Russia.
But there could be one problem: All of the U.S.’s NATO partners have signed on to the ban, which could theoretically cause problems for coalition missions, said the Stimson Center’s Stohl.
Future battlefields can be so dynamic that mines may not be cleared in time before they harm anyone nearby.
“What the hell is the point of laying [landmines] if you’re going to survive the next week or month?” former Marine Corps commandant Gen. Alfred M. Gray Jr. said. in 1993.
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The Pentagon’s embrace of landmines also runs counter to the State Department’s key diplomacy program, which has sought to find and destroy explosive remnants of war in 100 countries since 1993 — a $3.4 billion effort.
However, it is clear that civilians around the world have been haunted by the threat beneath their feet for decades.
In Vietnam alone, the remnants of mines and other explosives dropped by the United States have killed 40,000 people since the end of the war, and it may take 300 years to remove all remaining munitions.
In other words, the last Vietnamese killed by an unexploded American munition was probably never born. German cluster mines were a cunning weapon – killing or maiming thousands of Allied soldiers and civilians. The Wehrmacht also employed others very successfully during World War II. In one incident in late 1944, American soldiers encountered non-metallic mines in Lorraine, France. In one minefield, 12,000 mines made of bakelite or wood were found, which made them impossible to locate with metal detectors. By 1945, the US Army in Europe recorded that mines were responsible for 2.5 percent of combat casualties and 20.7 percent of tank losses. (You can read more about the personal stories behind the World War II statistics at
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German commanders considered the mine to be a very effective defensive weapon, so they made great efforts for its widespread use. Minefields were mainly used to cover defensive operations and retreats. In a static position, the Germans considered the minefields as an element of forward positions, which were designed according to the general mine plan in close connection with the firing fields. The German minefield doctrine was modified during the war so that instead of dense minefields in front of the main line of resistance, as was usual, the mines were scattered.
German engineers found it necessary to investigate the location of minefields and individual mines in the fields. They were instructed to select reference points for minefields that could be easily identified, such as a railway crossing, a road crossing or the edge of a village.
However, in some cases the Germans were forced to use guide wires and auxiliary fixed points. The type of auxiliary fixed point that proved practical was the center of an equilateral triangle with sides 15 to 25 feet long. The corner points and the fixed point itself would be marked with stakes, rails, concrete or steel supports about three meters long and connected with barbed wire. Such a fixed point could easily be recovered after heavy shelling. Fixed points can also be reference points found on a map. Distances were measured in meters, and azimuth with a compass.
The Germans believed it useful to set up a continuous series of reference points spaced 600 to 900 feet apart across the divisional sector. These reference points would be used to determine the location of trenches, trenches, barriers and redoubts, and minefields.
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In order to ensure maximum effect, minefields were usually laid in patterns, but there were exceptions to this practice in sectors where the Germans had no intention of carrying out offensive actions. There, mines were improperly placed in the space between defensive positions.
The main fields or belts of anti-tank mines were laid in a uniform pattern with a sprinkling of anti-personnel mines at the leading edge of the field. Both types of mines can be equipped with anti-explosion or anti-handling devices to detonate the mine