I’m writing to share SoA’s latest work in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, an area plagued by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) from over 40 years of conflict.
The region was first saturated with conventional landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-88. It saw further mining and UXO contamination during the conflict between the Saddam regime and the Peshmerga.
When ISIS rapidly seized large swaths of Iraq, they saturated urban centers and the front lines with improvised explosive devices (IED) in an attempt to disrupt coalition forces. This brutal tactic led to mass civilian casualties while disrupting the economy and undermining local governance.
With the fall of the ISIS caliphate, Iraqi Kurdistan has finally reached a critical opportunity to clear forty years worth of landmines, UXO, IEDs, and ERWs.
In the recent conflict with ISIS, 1,350 have been killed in action and 6,000 have been wounded. The toll of ERWs on the civilian population also echo these statistics; civilians are regularly injured or killed by explosives left by ISIS.
In 2016, the Landmine Monitor reported that the Iraq Kurdistan Mine Action Agency registered 2,711 confirmed hazardous areas and 491 suspected hazardous areas, encompassing over 240 square miles throughout the region.
The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, which reports directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government, established the K9 unit in 2017 with startup support from the Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI). The MLI-funded program provided 18 trained dogs to the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs along with a handler training program.
The K9 unit received international civilian and military demining training and is conducting limited operations, but the Peshmerga lack the resources to fully employ this critical capability when it is needed most.
SoA is providing the K9 unit with bomb-suits, metal detectors, and dog food and medicine needed for the unit to become immediately fully operational, filling the gap while long-term funding is secured by the Kurdistan Regional Government and US Forces. This will enable Peshmerga and US soldiers to conduct security operations against the remnants of insurgent ISIS and enable them to demine the region, thus allowing civilians to leave the refugee and displaced peoples camps and return home.
With your help, the US military will bring the K9 mine detection dog section to fully operational status. Your support will have an immediate impact on the safety of deployed US troops, our Kurdish partner forces, and civilians until long-term funding is secured by the Kurdistan Regional Government and US forces.
Spirit of America is providing 7 demining vests, 7 lightweight demining helmets, 3 mine detectors, 7 pairs of work gloves, and 6 months of medicine and dog food for 6 dogs.
This unit is relying on our support to become fully operational. Will you help us fill the gap?
Project Manager – Middle East