The landmine threat to innocent civilians around the world is personally tragic, but it also represents a massive challenge to the development and infrastructure of nations at risk. Landmines have recently been used to target civilian populations and refugees, creating crisis situations regarding agriculture, indirect health consequences, and developmental choices.
Mine action is a series of activities which, taken together, attempt to ameliorate the effects of landmines. Mine action components include landmine clearance, mine awareness, and victim assistance and support activities. These diverse, and sometimes unrelated, operations are undertaken by numerous organizations, which are not typically under the control of any one organization. Coordination of effort, therefore is extremely difficult.
The US government humanitarian demining program is predicated on providing limited support to countries which request aid, and designing the US response to produce a sustainable, host nation-run demining program as soon as possible. The Interagency Working Group has devised a series of procedures so that when appropriate, a requesting country can be supported by the Department of Defense and the Department of State in an effective and efficient manner.
The regional Commanders-in-Chief include humanitarian demining country plans in their umbrella peacetime strategy of Theater Engagement. Humanitarian demining is one of the family of humanitarian assistance missions covered by the Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civic Assistance (OHDACA) authority.
Special Operations Forces, including Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs (CA) units possess unique cultural as well as specialized skills which allow them to perform civil military operations (CMOs), to include humanitarian demining operations. Reserve CA forces, in particular, possess functional specialties, which mirror civilian professional skills relevant to infrastructure support and restoration. CA capabilities: planning, coordination, training, and advising can be applied to various aspects of a mine action campaign.
CA soldiers can coordinate with non-governmental organizations, other US agencies, for-profit companies, the UN, and other demining players. They can also help the host nation determine appropriate measures of effectiveness, demining plans and priorities, transition points, and support the creation of a National Demining Office.
The use of CA reservists, however, is constrained because of the relative importance of demining as a mission, the perceptions of the CA reserve force, the accessibility of reserve CA personnel, the configuration and size of CA units, and the funding of reserve forces in support of the demining program. Nevertheless, these constraints can be overcome and CA can support humanitarian demining operations effectively, if elements are activated in small teams and for short periods of time. This is especially true if CA units are expanded (as planned) and if DOD demining funds can be applied to support of CA reservists performing those missions.
CISR, "The Role of Civil Affairs in Mine Action" (2000). CISR Studies and Reports. 9.