By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is reviewing its landmine use policy, two years after the Trump administration lifted the geographic restrictions on where the weapons could be used.
Just like it said it was doing last year.
The Trump reversal in January 2020 lifted a ban on the U.S. military’s use of anti-personnel land mines outside of the Korean Peninsula, put in place by the Obama administration. The use was permitted if the land mines had self-destruct features or could self-deactivate.
Now they can be used anywhere “in exceptional circumstances,” under the Trump change. He also stopped the destruction of landmine stockpiles not made to defend South Korea.
President Biden, as a candidate, had pledged to reverse his predecessor’s antipersonnel land mine policy. He has not acted on that promise.
Nor has the Pentagon moved to jettison the more liberal use policy and return to the tighter deployment of the weapon.
When asked the Pentagon said, in a statement, “A review of the landmine policy is underway, led by the NSC staff. More information will be provided when available.”
In April of 2021, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said “We are analyzing (Defense) Secretary (Mark) Esper’s decision, his policy of January 2020. When we complete that analysis of that decision, then we will be able to have a better idea of whether or not further review of our land mine policy is warranted.”
An international treaty to ban antipersonnel land mines was written in In 1997 in Ottawa, Canada, and took effect in March 1999. It prevents party nations from using or developing land mines meant to harm people and commits those countries to destroy their existing stockpiles. There are 164 nations, including such NATO allies as the United Kingdom and France, who have signed the treaty. The United States has not — along with China, India, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, and Iran, among others.
The group Landmine Monitor identifies 12 states as producers of antipersonnel mines: China, Cuba, India, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam.
IIn 2020, at least 7,073 casualties of mines were recorded: 2,492 people were killed and 4,561 people were injured, while the survival status was unknown for 20 casualties, according to Landmine Monitor. The 2020 total represents an increase from the 5,853 casualties recorded in 2019 and is more than double the lowest annual recorded total (3,456 in 2013).
The vast majority of recorded mine casualties were civilians (80%) where status was known. In 2020, children accounted for half of all civilian casualties where the age was known (1,872).
Casualties in 2020 were identified in 54 states and other areas, of which 38 are States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. Non-signatory Syria recorded the highest number of annual casualties (2,729) for the first time since the Monitor began its reporting in 1999. States Parties with over 100 recorded casualties in 2020 were: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Yemen
Most recently, from mid-2020 through October 2021, Landmine Monitor confirmed new use of antipersonnel mines by the government forces of one country—Myanmar, which is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty. There are indications that new use of antipersonnel mines occurred during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in late 2020, but it was not possible to either confirm new use or attribute responsibility to a specific combatant force.
Non-state armed groups (NSAGs) used antipersonnel mines in at least six countries during the reporting period: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
Sri Lanka completed the destruction of its landmine stockpile in 2021, bringing the total number of countries to have declared completion of stockpile destruction to 94. Greece and Ukraine remain in violation of the treaty, as both have missed their deadlines to complete destruction of their stockpiles (2008 and 2010 respectively), with Ukraine needing to destroy 3.3 million and Greece, 343,413 mines.