Cablegate: Conventional Weapons Destruction (Cwd) Assistance to Iraq:

Published: Thu 11 Dec 2008 11:17 AM
DE RUEHGB #3865/01 3461117
R 111117Z DEC 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: With one of the highest levels of
landmine and unexploded ordnance contamination in the world, and
possibly millions of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) in the
hands of insurgent groups, militias and private citizens, Iraq has
struggled to make progress in reducing the impact of conventional
weapons on its citizens. Since 2003, the U.S. (working through the
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Office of Weapons Removal and
Abatement, PM/WRA) has invested over $132 million to help Iraqis
free themselves from the humanitarian and economic impact of
Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). This funding has been successful in
the clearing of over 14 million square meters of land and over
140,000 pieces of ordnance; the destruction of over 19,000
confiscated weapons, the initiation of the ongoing Landmine Impact
Survey (LIS), Victim Assistance Programs; and Mine Risk Education
for thousands of Iraqis.
are focused now on improving Iraqi capacity and political desire to
take ownership and to exercise direction of Iraq's National Mine
Action Program, as well as on discouraging an ill-conceived Ministry
of Defense plan to take over humanitarian demining. Fitful efforts
by the GoI to take the lead in addressing these issues are beginning
to achieve some modest results. Post and PM/WRA will continue the
effort to guide Iraq toward independence in humanitarian demining
and related fields, including by encouraging an effective division
of labor between military and civilian programs. END SUMMARY
3.(SBU) Although the full extent of the problem of explosive
remnants of war is still unclear, existing information shows Iraq to
be one of the most seriously contaminated in the world. Conflicts
with Iran in the 1980s and coalition forces in 1991 and again in
2003, as well as Saddam-era campaigns against Iraq's Kurdish
population and internal fighting since 2003, have left large areas
virtually unusable. Some international estimates put the number of
landmines remaining in Iraqi territory as high as 25 million.
4. (SBU) In 2007, the Department established a temporary two-person
CWD office at U.S. Embassy Baghdad. The primary duties of this
office include serving as the CWD strategic planning advisors to the
Embassy, Iraqi Ministries, International Organizations (IOs),
Coalition Forces (CF) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
CWD advisors oversee numerous PM/WRA in-country programs and assist
Iraqi ministries in developing plans for the removal and destruction
of conventional weapons and munitions including landmines,
unexploded ordnance, abandoned ordnance, man portable air defense
systems (MANPADS) and SA/LW.
5. (SBU) In addition, the CWD office develops the governance
capability of the Iraq National Mine Action Authority (NMAA),
assists in developing tactical plans for CWD in the Iraqi oil fields
within the Ministry of Electricity, Environment, Oil and others as
required. To date this office has had oversight of $25 million in
funding for Humanitarian Mine Action activities in Iraq, provided
direction in the clearance of 14,209,403 square meters of land, the
survey of 1,019,667 square meters of land, the destruction of over
12,000 mines and 137,089 pieces of UXO.
6. (SBU) From 2003 through 2008, the U.S. Government provided more
than $132 million, while other governments and assistance
organizations contributed another $21 million toward conventional
weapons destruction in Iraq. While the Conventional Munitions
Clearance Program, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, made
QClearance Program, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, made
initial progress, large stockpiles of conventional munitions were
left unsecured and available to Iraqi insurgent groups, and the
problem of large areas littered with mines and unexploded ordnance
was only partially addressed.
7. (SBU) The GoI, through U.S. technical and financial assistance,
formed the National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) under the Ministry
of Planning and Development Cooperation with overall responsibility
for mine action policy, planning, coordination and budget management
for clearance, mine-risk education and landmine survivors'
assistance. Although the NMAA was to be responsible for mine action
in all of Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government assumed control over
mine action in the three northern governorates in 2004 and has
retained responsibility since that time.
8. (SBU) Working initially with expatriate advisors, the NMAA
formulated policies of accreditation for mine action organizations
and even developed a strategic plan in 2004 to begin prioritizing
mine and unexploded munitions clearance. However, as security
deteriorated in 2005 and 2006, charges of corruption were made
against the director and senior staff, and a series of internal
problems surfaced; the effectiveness of the NMAA rapidly declined.
Finally, in June 2007, the GoI closed the agency entirely, pending
the eventual decision on a new ministry to take charge of mine
9. (SBU) Through PM/WRA, the Department has lead the CWD effort in
Iraq, funding several initiatives to build capacity, clear and
return land, and destroy weapons and munitions. Initial U.S. funding
to build clearance capacity amounted primarily to strengthening
existing mine and unexploded ordnance clearance organizations, with
over $15 million funded to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a UK
based NGO in northern Iraq, as well as to develop new clearance
organizations in the central and southern portions of the country.
Additionally, efforts were made to increase capacity within the GoI
as well as to nurture an Iraqi non-governmental organization, the
Iraqi Mine/UXO Clearance Organization (IMCO) - which has yielded
strong results.
10. (SBU) A significant amount of U.S. funding has gone into
establishing and sustaining IMCO. IMCO continues as the only active
clearance organization outside of the Kurdistan region, despite
funding shortages throughout 2006 and 2007 that reduced its
operations to basic life support and limited and sporadic clearance
activities. With a current strength of about 200 technically
capable personnel, IMCO has the capacity to double its numbers in a
relatively short period of time.
11. (SBU) Through 2007, all U.S. financial support for IMCO had been
channeled through a contracted technical advisor team, but this year
IMCO took its first steps toward becoming a more independent
organization with the start of direct funding grants for FY 08.
Improvements in security have enabled IMCO to increase its operating
tempo, conducting various clearance projects with the direct grants
as well as funds from other sources. PM/WRA has also provided IMCO
$897,865 for the development of a mobile SA/LW destruction
capability which, aimed at reducing the number of poorly-secured,
excess and confiscated weapons in the hands of Iraqi security forces
and Coalition Forces. To date over 19,000 of these targeted weapons
have been destroyed. While IMCO represents a major success story,
its future is under challenge from several directions.
12. (SBU) IMCO is scheduled to lose the lease on its present
training and weapons destruction facility in Baghdad shortly. Due
to the impending loss of its lease, IMCO has had to refuse incoming
shipments of confiscated weapons and is now actively looking for an
alternate location in Baghdad while simultaneously re-opening a site
in Basrah. Moreover, there is a move afoot within the Ministry of
Defense to have it, and all other humanitarian de-mining efforts,
subordinated under MOD control. Embassy Baghdad is working to turn
around this MOD initiative.
13. (SBU) Meanwhile MAG, which began working in northern Iraq in the
early 1990s, has expanded its capabilities, and moved from a primary
focus on humanitarian demining to the more balanced approach, giving
equal emphasis to destruction of conventional munitions and SA/LW.
As the most established clearance organization in Iraq operating in
a relatively permissive security environment, MAG has a
well-established infrastructure that is staffed primarily by Iraqi
nationals with a limited number of expatriate technical advisors and
senior managers, numbering as many as 750 personnel.
14. (SBU) Since 2004 the U.S. Government has provided over $4
million for the Iraq Landmine Impact Survey, which has identified
over 8,500 dangerous areas and 1,600 affected communities in
thirteen of Iraq's eighteen governorates. Although suspended in
2006, the LIS has begun again, and will complete the remaining
governorates of Al Anbar, Ninewa, Salah ad Din, Baghdad, and Diyala.
Qgovernorates of Al Anbar, Ninewa, Salah ad Din, Baghdad, and Diyala.
15. (SBU) In early 2008, the GoI decided to transfer responsibility
for mine action to the Ministry of the Environment, but to this
point, progress under the Ministry has been extremely limited.
Minister of the Environment Narmin Othman Hassan, who has little
experience in the mine action field and who must devote much of her
time to duties as Minister of Women's Affairs, has expressed
frustration with the pace of progress. Deputy Minister Dr. Kamal
Hussein Lateef has spent most of the year studying the proposed
structure of the National Authority, now known as the Mine Action
Directorate, and looking for a capable Director General.
16. (SBU) Progress has also been hampered by the sporadic nature of
assistance from the UNDP Senior Mine Action Advisor, who is based in
Amman and visits Baghdad only periodically. Minister Hassan has
also recently rejected the nominee recommended by both her deputy
and UNDP for Director General, potentiall delaying the
reestablishment of a NMAA. Recently there has been growing interest
by the GoI to include the Ministry of Defense in Iraqi demining
programs and meetings are currently being held to decide the
direction this effort may take.
17. (SBU) One positive development has been the Minister of
Environment's proposal to employ up to 500 unemployed people from
the Basrah governorate as mine action workers. With very little
clearance infrastructure remaining in Basrah, the plan poses
significant, but manageable problems. IMCO has committed to
training and employing 100 people in a pilot project that would lead
to the mapping of most minefields in the southern governorates over
the twelve-month period of the project. UNDP has also proposed a
similar effort through the NGO Rafidain Demining Organization (RDO)
but is unlikely to be able to deliver in the next six to twelve
months, given the limitations of RDO and the limited presence of
UNDP mine action personnel in Iraq.
18. (SBU) Nonetheless, IMCO has moved forward with plans to
reestablish a base of operations near Basrah which will support the
Ministry of Environment's employment project. Moreover, the project
will position IMCO for potential projects that support the expansion
of oil production and exploration in the south, where many oilfields
and production facilities are seriously contaminated with mines and
19. (SBU) As the GoI continues to grapple with developing a coherent
approach to the problem of mine and unexploded ordnance
contamination, there are several reasons to be concerned about the
slow pace of advance. Foremost is the humanitarian imperative for
removing these hazards as quickly as possible. Although there are
no reliable estimates for how many civilian casualties are caused
annually, conservative estimates put the figure at about 300 victims
each year. Anecdotally, in one village of less than one thousand
people living along the Iranian border there are known to be at
least thirty children who are landmine victims, and the actual
number throughout the country could conceivably number in the tens
of thousands.
20. (SBU) Second, as the security situation in the country has
steadily improved, reconstruction and development projects have
again begun grow in number. Without an effective coordination body
within the GoI, there is still no mechanism for prioritizing and
contracting the clearance work that is needed. Unless more money is
allocated to a central coordinating body, mine and ordnance
clearance could depend more on who is willing to pay the most,
resulting in emphasis on economically profitable demining at the
expense of other less profitable but equally important projects.
21. (SBU) Finally, with only limited clearance capabilities existing
throughout most of the country, expansion of this capacity is
becoming more urgent. The GoI has the financial resources to
support expansion, but so far it has not done much to support or
promote this need. Post and PM/WRA will continue the effort to
guide Iraq toward independence in humanitarian demining and related
fields, including by encouraging an effective division of labor
between military and civilian programs.
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