The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is plagued by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) from over 40 years of conflict dating back to the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). The region saw further mining and UXO contamination during the subsequent conflict between Saddam Hussein’s government and the Peshmerga. Starting in 2014 as 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, disrupted the economy, and undermined local governance. With the fall of the ISIS caliphate, Iraqi Kurdistan finally has the peace and security to necessary to begin clearing forty years worth of landmines and other ERW.
The primary cause of Peshmerga casualties during the recent conflict with ISIS was IEDs, constituting 1,350 casualties or 60% of reported deaths, and wounding an additional 6,000. 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 Iraq Kurdistan Mine Action Agency registered 2,711 confirmed hazardous areas and 491 suspected hazardous areas, encompassing over 240 square miles in the region.
The Ministry of Peshmerga 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 unit also received additional international civilian and military demining training. Today, they conduct limited operations but lack the resources necessary to fully employ this critical capability. SoA is providing the K9 unit with bomb-suits, metal detectors, and dog food and medicine needed to immediately fully operationalize for the unit, filling the gap while long-term funding is secured by the Kurdistan Regional Government and US Forces.
With your help, the US military will bring the Peshmerga K9 mine detection dog section to fully operational status, enabling them and US soldiers to root out the remnants of ISIS and to begin the hard work of demining the region. Ultimately, this will allow civilians to return home from the refugee and displaced peoples camps scattered across the Middle East.