x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UN requests UAE help in Afghan mine clearing

Military can replicate eight year de-mining operation in Lebanon.

NEW YORK // UN officials have sought to enlist the help of the Emirati military in clearing landmines in Afghanistan. A 20-strong UAE Armed Forces delegation was briefed by Justin Brady, of the UN Mine Action Service (Unmas). He explained how the Emirati military could help rid Afghanistan of unexploded weapons in more than 5,000 areas that are considered hazardous, the UN said.

Around 50 people are killed, maimed or wounded by the devices every month. UN officials say they hope the UAE can replicate its clearance work in southern Lebanon in Operation Emirates Solidarity, the US$70million (Dh260m) effort to clear Israeli cluster bombs and mines in Lebanon. That operation, which began in 2001 and lasted eight-years, involved more than 200 Emirati troops, engineers, officers and international experts.

Afghanistan has one of the world's highest concentrations of landmines, but the UN calculates that, with enough resources, it could clear the weapons in a matter of years and help reconstruction in the process. "The problem is eminently solvable, the only missing factor is funding," said Mr Brady after Tuesday's meeting. Last month, Max Kerley, the director of Unmas, visited Abu Dhabi and sought to persuade officials to bolster the UN's most under-funded mine clearance operation in Afghanistan.

Unmas estimates that more than 2,000 Afghan communities are blighted by remnants of war, with 5,384 hazardous areas across 600 square km of land deemed unsafe.