As Iraqi armed forces and their Global Coalition allies continue to uproot ISIL from the territory it once occupied, the scope of the devastation in Iraq is becoming more clear. Since 2014, over 3.3 million people have been displaced throughout Iraq, while some 10 million are in dire need of lifesaving humanitarian assistance. In late July, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany and Japan co-hosted a Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq that raised over 2 billion dollars in new funds. The money will be used for humanitarian aid, and to stabilize the liberated territories and make them habitable again. Some of the pledged money will be used to clear land mines and unexploded ordnance to help achieve this goal.
Going back to at least the Iran-Iraq conflict that began in 1980, successive warring parties have laid down mines and contaminated the country with unexploded bombs and other live war materiel. “Communities across Iraq face danger from an estimated 10 to 15 million landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance,” writes in a recent blog post Major General Michael Rothstein, who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Plans, Programs, and Operations in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. On top of these existing hazards, Iraqis now have to contend with the threat of improvised explosive devices created by ISIL. Since 2003, the United States has invested more than 300 million dollars toward the clearance and safe disposal of explosives and weapons in Iraq.
In 2015 alone, the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction Program helped to clear more than 65 million square meters of land. “The July 20 Pledging Conference raised more than 2 billion dollars to address the challenges faced by the Iraqi people and to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIL in Iraq,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Rothstein. The United States made a substantial pledge during the conference, and we look to other nations to join us in this effort. Together, we can work to ensure that all Iraqis can live free from the devastation caused by the explosive remnants of war.