U.S. Department of State
With an investment of over $3 million dollars, the United States is about to embark on a major step in regional cooperation in the Caucasus. On September 14, 2000, a small contingent of U.S. Special Forces troops and supporting personnel deploy to the Republic of Georgia to train Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani troops in humanitarian demining techniques. This unique development stems from efforts by Robert M. Beecroft, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State, now U.S. Deputy Special Advisor for Bosnian Implementation, to create real conditions for peace and prosperity in the southern Caucasus under the Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBMs) called for by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Georgia has generously agreed to host Armenian and Azerbaijani contingents of humanitarian deminer trainees on one of its bases and to permit the U.S. military to conduct specialized humanitarian demining training with them there. A Georgian contingent of humanitarian demining trainees will also participate. All three foreign contingents will train together simultaneously with U.S. assistance. Their training is scheduled to be completed by early November.
The U.S. military contingent will consist of approximately 70 Special Forces ("Green Berets") and Special Operations Support troops under the overall authority of the United States European Command (EUCOM). The U.S. troops will set up a training center at a Georgian military base near Tbilisi and provide humanitarian demining training as well as the related skills of emergency medical treatment and communications. The Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani contingents will each consist of 15 deminers and 5 auxiliary personnel (such as translators), drawn from military engineering and other specialized fields. The standards of the U.S. military's "Train the Trainer" humanitarian demining program will enable the 60 participating deminers to pass along the lessons they learn to others in their respective armies, thereby serving as "force multipliers" for peace.
The former Soviet Republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan all suffer in varying degrees from landmines that were emplaced on their territories during conflicts that arose as the Soviet Union broke apart. During the subsequent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, both nations laid mines haphazardly and are suffering the consequences: ongoing casualties to innocent civilians, even after the cessation of combat, as well as the loss of vital agricultural land, housing and key infrastructure due to landmines or the threat of landmines. Beyond the immediate risk to the physical safety and economic recovery of civilians in mine-affected regions of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the landmine infestation has also affected reconciliation between these neighbors.
While Georgia has been at peace with neighboring countries since it declared independence, internal separatist conflict in Abkhazia resulted in the laying of landmines and subsequent ongoing physical and economic threat to civilians in that region.
Azerbaijan has received $688,000 in humanitarian demining assistance from the United States since fiscal year 1999, a portion of which will fund the joint humanitarian demining training with Armenia and Georgia, as well as the purchase of modern demining equipment. The emphasis of U.S. humanitarian demining assistance to Azerbaijan has been to help its internally displaced persons from the war safely return to their homes in regions that were mined.
Armenia is receiving $300,000 this fiscal year to purchase modern demining equipment and to participate in the Beecroft Initiative. As with Azerbaijan, a major focus of U.S. funding is on returning internally displaced persons to their homes.
Georgia will receive $27,000 this fiscal year to acquire modern demining equipment and participate in the humanitarian demining training with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
U.S. humanitarian demining assistance allocated to all three nations to date totals over $1 million dollars. The cost of the deployment of the U.S. military humanitarian demining training contingent is estimated at $3.2 million dollars. These combined expenditures in excess of $4 million dollars underline the U.S. commitment to building peace and stability in the southern Caucasus.
The United States was among the first nations to initiate humanitarian demining assistance when, in late 1988, it began supporting clearance of the vast numbers of landmines laid in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. From that beginning, the innovative U.S. humanitarian demining program has grown. Since 1993 alone, the U.S. has spent over $400 million on minefield surveys, mine clearance, mine awareness programs, and mine survivor rehabilitation around the world. Approximately $81 million of these funds have been devoted to research and development to improve mine clearance and mine detection techniques. The U.S. Department of State formally established the Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs in 1998. That office now manages humanitarian demining assistance to 37 mine-affected countries, including Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, as well as the regions of Kosovo and Northwest Somalia.
So far, one quarter of the world's humanitarian deminers have received humanitarian demining training through the U.S. Department of Defense's "Train the Trainer" program. This will be supplemented by the training of Armenian, Azerbaijani, and Georgian humanitarian deminers under the "Beecroft Initiative."
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