Last Updated: 27 September 2014

Mine Action

Contamination and Impact

Overall Mine Action Performance: GOOD[1]

Performance Indicator


Problem understood


Target date for completion of clearance


Targeted clearance


Efficient clearance


National funding of program


Timely clearance


Land release system


National mine action standards


Reporting on progress


Improving performance





The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains one of the countries most contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), mainly the result of the decade-long war of resistance that followed the Soviet invasion of 1979, the 1992–1996 internal armed conflict, and the United States (US)-led coalition intervention in late 2001 which added considerable quantities of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

Continuing survey in Afghanistan added 51.8km2 of antipersonnel mine hazards to the mine action database in 2013 but the end-year estimate of 240km2 was 11% lower than a year earlier, maintaining the rate of decline of the previous year.

Remaining contamination as of end 2013[2]

Type of contamination

Hazardous areas

Area (km2)

Population affected

Antipersonnel mines




Antivehicle mines




Improvised explosive devices













Areas contaminated by antipersonnel mines account for 45% of the total contaminated area and impact around 40% of Afghanistan’s total mine/ERW affected population. Some 40% of antipersonnel mine contamination is concentrated in Kabul and the six other provinces that make up Afghanistan’s central region (Bamyan, Kapisa, Logar, Parwan, Panjsher, and Wardak).[3] Antivehicle mines also pose a distinct problem. Although far fewer in number, mined areas containing only antivehicle mines are spread across some 236km² and the minimum metal content of many of these mines further complicates detection.

Improvised explosive devices

Aside from factory-produced mines, much the biggest threat to civilians continues to come from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed by non-state armed groups. The 5km2 that Afghanistan identifies as contaminated by IEDs applies only to “legacy” IEDs (i.e. those placed in areas that are no longer of military significance), but the impact of newly laid devices is far greater. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has reported they caused 2,890 civilian casualties in 2013 (962 killed and 1,928 injured), 14% more than in 2012 and accounting for one third of all civilian casualties from the conflict. UNAMA attributed the increase in part to the placing of IEDs particularly in areas frequented by civilians, such as markets and public roads, where they did not appear to target a military objective.

The number of civilian casualties from victim-activated, pressure-plate IEDs (fitting the treaty definition of an antipersonnel mine) dropped 39%, the UN reported, killing 245 civilians and injuring 312. The decline was offset by an 85% rise in civilian casualties resulting from radio-controlled devices, which killed 257 civilians and injured 892 in 2013.[4]

Cluster munition remnants

Afghanistan reported 19 cluster munitions contaminated areas covering 7.27km2 at the end of 2013, a reduction of three areas and 0.37km2 from the level of contamination identified in Afghanistan’s Article 5 extension report submitted in late 2012.[5] These are contaminated with US BLU 97 submunitions and block access to grazing and agricultural land.[6] Contamination by submunitions is more extensive as operators continue to encounter scattered remnants in other areas, but operator reporting forms do not disaggregate UXO and cluster munitions so these do not show up in Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACCA) data.[7]

Other ERW

Afghanistan contends with a wide range of ERW, including unexploded aircraft bombs, artillery shells, mortars, rockets, and grenades, as well as some abandoned explosive ordnance. Random items of UXO are scattered over much of the country and will continue to be found for decades, but concentrated contamination recorded as battlefield areas now account for a little under 10% of total contamination.

Despite the shrinking battlefield area, ERW casualties rose by 63% in 2013, according to the UN, which documented 114 civilian deaths and 229 injured. A major concern is the contamination left on firing ranges used by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), underlined by reports of a sharp rise in casualties on firing ranges and former bases in 2013 and 2014, partly as a result of the accelerated closure of bases by international forces leaving Afghanistan. MACCA reported around 70 people have been killed or injured by UXO on these ranges since 2012 although media reports say the figure is likely to be much higher.

ISAF has identified 184 ranges, many of which are unmarked, as well as 231 “sites of kinetic engagement,” or battle strike locations, but has yet to supply a complete list of ranges.[8] US press reports say the military rejected a MACCA request to fence off a range located beside Bagram airbase as too expensive and unrealistic.[9] In discussion with MACCA, ISAF and NATO agreed in 2013 to conduct clearance and hired a commercial company, formerly EOD Technology (EODT) but now Sterling Global Operations, to survey the ranges.[10]

Mine Action Program

The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) is coordinated by MACCA.[11] From 2001, this was a project of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) implemented by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and under international management. From 1 April 2012, MACCA came under Afghan management supported by an UNMAS project office.[12]

As of January 2014, MACCA had a total staff of 191, reduced from 339 in 2012 as a result of cuts particularly in the staffing of area mine action centers (AMACs), now named MACCA regional offices. By March 2013, the number of international staff in the UNMAS project office had fallen to four (from eight in 2012), providing oversight and advisory support to MACCA, administering donor funds provided for clearance and coordination through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF), and monitoring and evaluating project implementation.[13]

MACCA’s restructuring is taking place within the context of a broader transition of mine action from the UN to the government. Until 2008, Afghanistan had “entrusted interim responsibility” for coordinating mine action to the UN.[14] In 2008, a government Interministerial Board assigned the lead role in mine action to the Department of Mine Clearance (DMC), a department of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), which reports to the Office of the Second Vice President. As of January 2014, the DMC had 15 staff located in the MACCA offices.[15] Since 2012, discussions have continued among key stakeholders on the best formula for managing mine action. Afghanistan’s Article 5 deadline extension request said the aim was to “absorb a reduced MACCA structure into the civil service or to create a new structure within the government for the specific management of mine action.”[16]

Afghanistan is in the process of drafting a mine action law aimed specifically at fulfilling the requirements of the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. As of February 2014, a technical committee comprising concerned ministries and MACCA had reviewed the draft law and was due to send it to the Ministry of Justice to be included as an annex to a 2005 law on firearms and explosive materials.[17]

Most mine clearance is conducted by five long-established national and two international NGOs. The Afghan NGOs are Afghan Technical Consultants (ATC), Demining Agency for Afghanistan (DAFA), Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA), Mine Detection and Dog Centre (MDC), and the Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR). The most active international NGOs are Danish Demining Group (DDG) and HALO Trust. Since 2012, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) has had a small operation near the border with Tajikistan.[18]

Strategic planning

Afghanistan’s clearance plan for the 10 years to March 2023 is set down in the Article 5 deadline extension request it submitted in March 2012 and revised in August of the same year. The request foresees clearance of all antivehicle mines and battlefield areas as well as antipersonnel mines. It consolidated the then 4,442 remaining mine and ERW hazards into 308 projects, an approach intended to facilitate monitoring of progress and resource mobilization. Projects would be tackled according to their priority as determined by their impact, measured against a set of impact indicators.

The MAPA program for the Afghan year 1392 (1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014) prepared by MACCA and implementing partners targeted clearance of 712 hazards covering a total of 78km², including 483 antipersonnel mined areas covering 24km², 195 antivehicle mined areas covering more than 43km², and 34 ERW hazards over a total area of 10km². If fulfilled, the plan would result in 17 districts being cleared of mines, but achieving those targets depended on receiving funding at the levels projected by the implementing partners preparing the plan.[19]

Land Release

Following years of accelerating clearance, the total amount of land released through clearance of mined and battle areas fell for the second successive year in 2013, by 28%. Some of the fall-off in the pace of land release is accounted for by the shrinking amount of battle area contamination and clearance. More significantly, a steady rise in clearance of mined areas recorded from 2008 to 2012 reversed in 2013 when operations were hampered by lower levels of donor support and the amount of mined land cleared dropped 22% from the previous year to 60km2.[20]

 Mine clearance in 2009–2013 (km2)[21]


Mined area cleared













Survey in 2013

The “Mine and ERW Impact Free Community Survey” (MEIFCS) which MACCA started in 2012 continued during 2013, implemented by HALO (21 teams), MCPA (21 teams), DAFA (five teams), and OMAR (two teams), which visited a total of 23,344 communities. Their survey resulted in a net addition of 27km2 of contamination to the database, identifying 527 previously unrecorded hazards totaling 38km2 and affecting around 45,000 people, and canceling 127 areas totaling 10.5km2. Survey teams found 22,695 of the communities visited in 2013 to be free of known mined or battle areas but also conducted spot explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) tasks destroying more than 13,000 items of UXO.[22]

MACCA and operators had planned the MEIFCS as a two-year resurvey of all Afghanistan’s 398 districts but have had to recalculate the duration to allow for a far greater number of communities than expected—in some districts triple the number recorded in the official gazetteer that was the reference point for planning the survey. More than half the communities surveyed in 2013 did not appear in the gazetteer. By the end of the year, teams had completed survey in 64 districts, bringing the total surveyed to 135 out of a total in the country of 398. Implementing partners have also held back from conducting survey in more than 30 districts because of insecurity, an issue that may delay completion or curtail the extent of the survey.[23] Five members of a HALO survey team were abducted in June 2013. They were released unharmed but their vehicle was not recovered.[24]

Mine clearance in 2013

Afghanistan remained one of the most strongly funded mine action programs in the world in 1392 (2013−2014) but delays in funding and resulting interruptions in operations took their toll on productivity. Implementing Partners cleared 60km2 in 2013, down by more than a quarter from 77km2 the previous year, although the 19,181 antipersonnel mines destroyed in 2013 only dropped marginally (by 6%).[25]

The uncertain outlook for donor support has raised serious doubts about the ability of the MAPA to deploy sufficient capacity to fulfil Afghanistan’s clearance targets. The number of personnel employed in mine action has dropped from a peak of 14,300 in 2011 to around 8,800 as of May 2014 and looked set to sustain further significant cuts in the coming year.[26]

As an example of this pattern, ATC, a long-established Implementing Partner, reported in mid-2013 that it had no projects in hand and had to stand down all but a core of staff needed to maintain its headquarters.[27] MDC reported laying off 29 teams and 488 staff at the end of 2013 due to lack of funds.[28] OMAR was one of the few that expected to maintain its capacity of 890 staff with the same level of donor support in 2014 as the previous year.[29] HALO, the biggest operator in Afghanistan, finished 2013 with total staff of 2,793, much the same capacity as at the start of the year, but a fall-off in funding through the middle of the year and a corresponding reduction in staffing contributed to a drop of around 13% in area cleared. Other factors contributing to lower productivity included the more remote location and the more difficult terrain of many tasks remaining to be addressed.[30]

Despite the bleaker funding outlook, HALO has support from the United Kingdom (UK) government Department for International Development (DfID) up to 2018 for demining Herat province and multi-year commitments from other donors which it believed would suffice to maintain capacity in 2014. It also operates a weapons and ammunition disposal (WAD) program that destroyed 749 tons of explosives and explosive items, including 1,652 antipersonnel mines and 253 antivehicle mines recovered from communities or seized by Afghan security forces. HALO also conducted some 7,872 spot EOD tasks destroying 528 antipersonnel mines and 18 antivehicle mines and is seeking support for its role in the Afghanistan Peace and Integration Process under which it has taken on and trained more than 300 reintegrees.[31]

EODT completed a two-year contract intended to clear high- and medium-priority mined areas in Kandahar, one of the most conflicted areas of Afghanistan, funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but, as of writing, the UAE had not committed to support additional projects. Operations by HALO in insecure Logar province demonstrated the continuing scope for progress in mine clearance despite the risks of insurgency in many parts of the country[32] but Implementing Partners also continued to work extensively through community-based demining (CBD) teams, adding 111 new teams in 2013 and standing down 96, leaving a total of 57 operating at the end of 2013. CBD operations cost US$15.3 million in 2013, accounting for one-fifth of mine action spending.[33]

Mine clearance in 2013[34]


Mined areas released

Mined area cleared


Antipersonnel mines destroyed

Antivehicle mines destroyed



















































Quality management

Since reductions of staff in 2012, MACCA has conducted external quality assurance through a seven-person unit in Kabul and 40 staff in its regional mine action offices, conducting fewer on-site visits and placing more emphasis on monitoring project management application and quarterly reviews of each project. The downturn in field visits combined with pressure on Implementing Partners to cut costs spurred some operators to voice concerns about declining standards. MACCA reported conducting 2,087 field visits to monitor demining, survey, risk education, and victim assistance operations in 2013 and said there was no evidence of a drop in standards. MACCA was exploring the possibility of expanding its field monitoring capacity by training provincial staff of its parent institution, ANDMA.[35]

Safety of demining personnel

One deminer was killed and 21 injured in demining incidents in 2013, compared with three killed and 13 injured the previous year.[36] HALO reported that a deminer was killed by a PMN mine in Baghlan province in the course of clearing mines on sloping terrain. Three other HALO deminers were injured, two in Takhar province and the fourth in Baghlan province. All of them occurred on mountainous, steeply sloping land.

Insurgency and criminality continued to pose the main threat to deminers, although the number of security incidents dropped from 53 in 2012 to 39 last year. Eight mine action staff were killed and four injured in security incidents in 2013, compared with six killed and 10 injured in 2012. Mine action teams suffered a number of abductions by anti-government elements or criminals, also losing 13 vehicles, 92 detectors, and 23 VHF radios.[37]

Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the 10-year extension granted by States Parties in 2012), Afghanistan is required to destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2023.

Afghanistan’s extension request, prepared by MACCA and Implementing Partners and assessed by the ICBL as the most comprehensive produced by any country so far, underlined that the program had the capacity to complete clearance of known mined areas but that its ability to do so depended primarily on sustained donor support. Little more than one year into the extension period, donor fatigue for funding Afghanistan’s mine action threatens to undermine any prospect of achieving those targets and potentially the coherence of the program.

In 1392 (ending in March 2014), the first year of the extension, donors provided a total of more than US$71 million, a drop of only 3% from the previous year and sufficient to keep Afghanistan as the world’s biggest program, but the request had projected the program’s financial needs at almost $85 million; the shortfall, combined with delays in delivery (notably from the US, the biggest donor) had a disproportionate impact, delaying deployment of demining teams and reducing the amount of clearance in 2013.

Funding for humanitarian clearance has fallen more sharply in 1393 (2014−2015) leaving the program, as of May 2014, close to 40% short of the level targeted in the extension request (see Support for Mine Action section below). The downturn resulted partly from cuts in support from the US linked to the decision of the outgoing government of President Hamid Karzai not to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, although the US was reportedly considering providing substantially higher levels of support for commercial companies to clear US military firing ranges. The shortfall raised the possibility of more cuts in MACCA staff coordinating Afghan mine action and some Implementing Partners, leaving the program insufficient capacity to implement its extension request targets.[38]

Clearance of cluster munition contaminated areas in 2013

MACCA reported release of three areas affected by cluster munitions totaling 0.37km2 in 2013. Of the total, according to MACCA data, two operators—HALO and MCPA—cleared 0.05km2 and destroyed one submunition. HALO, however, reported clearing 2,318m2 and destroyed 220 submunitions. IPs report tackling submunitions on demining and battle area clearance (BAC) tasks, although some operators only record them as UXO. HALO, for example, reported clearing 21 submunitions in the course of mined area clearance, 80 submunitions in the course of BAC, and a further 236 items in spot EOD tasks.[39]

Compliance with Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Under Article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Afghanistan is required to destroy all cluster munition remnants in areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, but not later than 1 March 2022.

MACCA has not recorded clearance of cluster munitions separately from other types of UXO but Afghanistan’s Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 extension request provides for clearance of all ERW, including submunitions, by 2020.[40]

Support for Mine Action

The MAPA obtained funding totaling US$74 million for the Afghan year 1391 (ending March 2013) and $71 million for 1392 (ending March 2014), including $52 million pledged bilaterally and $19 million pledged through the UN VTF. The Afghan government provided $2.56 million in 2013 for clearance of Aynak copper mine, a project being undertaken by MDC.[41]

International donors in Afghan year 1392 included the US, UAE, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Japan, Canada (Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA), the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Sweden, European Union, Ireland, Denmark, PATRIP (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Regional Integration Programme), Italy, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Belgium, Austria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Lithuania.

The extension request targeted $77 million in mine action expenditure in Afghan year 1392, but as of May 2014, the program had not attracted support from a number of previously important donors, including the European Union, and had secured funding amounting to only $30 million with initial pledges for another $17 million leaving the program at least 38% short.[42]


·         MACCA should provide an update on funding available for 2014 (Afghan year 1393) and in prospect for 2015 (Afghan year 1394) and the implications for MAPA capacity and implementation of the work plan and timelines set out in the Article 5 extension request.

·         MACCA should consider the implications of funding shortfalls on its ability to fully complete its Article 5 obligations and adapt its strategic plans accordingly.


[1] See “Mine Action Program Performance” for more information on performance indicators.

[2] Data provided by the Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACCA), 11 February 2014.

[3] Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA), “Annual Report 1391,” undated but 2013, p. 2.

[4]Afghanistan, Annual Report 2013, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” UNAMA, Kabul, 2 February 2014, pp. 3 and 18.

[5] Data provided by MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[6] Email from MACCA, 16 August 2012; and statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 15 April 2013.

[7] Interviews with MACCA Implementing Partners, Kabul, 15−23 May 2013.

[8]Afghanistan, Annual Report 2013, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” UNAMA, Kabul, 2 February 2014, pp. 11 and 68.

[9] Kevin Sieff, “Next to U.S. firing range in Afghanistan, a village of victims,” Washington Post, 26 May 2012.

[10] Interview with Mohammad Shafiq Yosufi, Director, Department of Mine Clearance, in Geneva, 10 April 2014; Kevin Sieff, “A rising number of children are dying from U.S. explosives littering Afghan land,” Washington Post, 9 April 2014.

[11] The center was established in 1989 as the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) and in 2009 renamed the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA). For details on the history and structure of mine action in Afghanistan, see Afghanistan’s Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 29 March 2012, pp. 50−68.

[12] Interviews with Alan MacDonald, Program Director, MACCA, in Geneva, 23 March 2012; and with Abigail Hartley, Program Manager, UNMAS, Kabul, 7 May 2012.

[13] Email from Edwin Faigmane, UNMAS, Kabul, 11 March 2013.

[15] Emails from MACCA, 16 August 2011; and from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[16] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 29 March 2012, p. 65; interviews with Mohammad Sediq Rashid, Director, MACCA, and Abigail Hartley, UNMAS, in Geneva, 5 December 2012, and Kabul, 19 May 2013.

[17] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[18] Email from MACCA, 10 May 2011.

[19] Integrated Operational Framework, MACCA, April 2013, p. 40.

[20] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[21] Data supplied annually by MACCA. Data for 2012 provided by email from MACCA, 11 March 2013.

[22] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[23] Ibid.; and interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, and Abigail Hartley, UNMAS, in Geneva, 22 December 2013.

[24] Email from Farid Homayoun, Country Director, HALO Trust, 22 February 2014.

[25] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[26] Telephone interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, 20 May 2014.

[27] Interview with Kefayatulah Eblagh, Director, ATC, in Kabul, 22 May 2013.

[28] Email from Shohab Hakimi, Director, MDC, 9 March 2014.

[29] Email from Zekriya Payab, Deputy Director, OMAR, 27 February 2014.

[30] Email from Farid Homayoun, HALO Trust, 22 February 2014.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014. DAFA operated 26 CBD teams in 2013 in Helmand, Kandahar, and Paktia; MCPA 15 teams in Khost and Paktia; MDC 11 teams in Helmand and Logar; and FSD five teams in Badakshan.

[34] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[35] Ibid.; interview with Mohammad Shafiq Yosufi, DMC, in Geneva, 10 April 2014.

[36] Emails from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014; and Edwin Faigmane, UNMAS, Kabul, 11 March 2013.

[37] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014.

[38] Telephone interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, 20 May 2014.

[39] Emails from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014; and from Farid Homayoun, HALO Trust, 22 February 2014.

[41] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 11 February 2014; interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, and Abigail Hartley, UNMAS, in Geneva, 22 December 2013.

[42] Interview with Mohammad Shafiq Yosufi, DMC, in Geneva, 10 April 2014; telephone interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, 20 May 2014.