U.S. Department of State
"Beecroft Initiative" Trains Humanitarian Deminers, Advances Regional Peace
To speed the pace of reducing the landmine threat that endangers populations in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and to strengthen confidence and security in the southern Caucasus, the U.S. Department of State implemented the "Beecroft Initiative," an innovative multilateral program. Under this Initiative, U.S. military personnel have been conducting simultaneous humanitarian demining training of select groups of Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers at a military base in Georgia. These individuals are scheduled to graduate on Thursday, November 2, 2000. Afterwards, they will put their new skills to work in conducting humanitarian demining in their respective countries. They will also teach their fellow soldiers up-to-date humanitarian demining skills, thereby serving as force multipliers for peace. The cooperation between the United States and these three countries will foster good relations in the region and serve as a model for further collaborative efforts among the governments and citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The Department of Defense's cost of the deployment of the U.S. military humanitarian demining trainers is estimated at $3.2 million dollars. U.S. State Department humanitarian demining assistance to all three nations to date totals over $1 million dollars. These combined expenditures in excess of $4 million dollars underline the U.S. commitment to strengthening peace and stability in the southern Caucasus.
WHO IS INVOLVED
Robert M. Beecroft, while serving as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, devised this Initiative. (Mr. Beecroft now serves as U.S. Deputy Special Advisor for Bosnian Implementation.) He will be the guest of honor at the November 2 graduation ceremony at a base near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
The Office of Humanitarian Demining Programs, within the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, currently manages State Department humanitarian demining assistance to 37 countries, including Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Armenia has not been formally accepted in the Humanitarian Demining Program at this time, but is receiving separate humanitarian demining support through the Beecroft Initiative.
The U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict - Peacekeeping & Humanitarian Affairs), is charged with managing the U.S. military's "Train-the-Trainer" program. Under this program, Special Forces trainers, along with Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs personnel, train foreign deminers at overseas sites in modern humanitarian demining techniques. So far, approximately one quarter of the world's humanitarian deminers have been trained under this "Train-the-Trainer" program or at the U.S. Army's Humanitarian Demining Training Center at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
The Government of Georgia generously agreed to host this innovative training program at the Gori military base near Tbilisi. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have each contributed 20 soldiers (total of 60 foreign troops) to be educated in modern humanitarian demining techniques by 70 U.S. Army demining experts.
The 70 U.S. troops are mainly Special Forces ("Green Berets") from the 10th Special Forces Group. The U.S. contingent also includes Psychological Operations troops who are teaching how to conduct information campaigns such as mine awareness education. In addition, Civil Affairs troops are teaching organization and management skills and civil-military cooperation in mine action. Personnel from the Special Operations Support Command are also taking part in the mission.
WHAT IS INVOLVED
Humanitarian demining is designed to reduce the threat of landmines to civilians as well as their infrastructure (homes, schools, factories, transportation, arable land, water sources, etc.). The internationally recognized standard of rendering a mined area "mine safe" is that 99.6% of the mines be neutralized. By contrast, military demining normally involves the quick clearing of a relatively narrow passage through enemy minefields to achieve immediate tactical objectives. Other landmines remain in place after such military operations.
Under the "Beecroft Initiative," the military contingents from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been taught modern humanitarian demining techniques, to include: a) comprehensive survey of homes, infrastructure and land believed to be mined; b) meticulous, safe and thorough methods for conducting the demining; c) medical skills to render aid to deminers injured in the course of mine clearance; d) reporting and recording progress in mine clearance; e) communications; f) and teaching mine awareness to civilian populations in mine affected areas in order to lessen their exposure to mines and encourage safe behavior.
WHY THIS INITIATIVE IS NECESSARY
The former Soviet Republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are all affected by landmines that were emplaced on their territories during conflicts that arose prior to and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Many landmines from those conflicts are deadly hazards today.
Of the three nations, Georgia is the least affected by landmines although they constitute a significant hazard in its Abkhaz region and territory immediately bordering it. The United Nations has estimated that 150,000 landmines were laid in these areas.
Civilian populations in Armenia and Azerbaijan suffer from significant numbers of landmines emplaced by both sides during the 1990 - 1994 conflict between the two nations. The greatest concentrations of mines are to be found in the border regions - around 1000 kilometers in length between the two countries - as well as in territories adjoining those regions where fighting also took place. Both Governments recognize that the landmines, which continue to claim civilian victims and preclude the use of valuable agricultural land and vital infrastructure, are hampering their ability to reduce tensions between their countries and rebuild their economies.
Under the "Beecroft Initiative," Armenian and Azerbaijani troops have successfully cooperated in a joint training effort for the first time since the two nations declared independence in the post-Soviet era. This historical step is a precedent for other peaceful, collaborative efforts between these two nations as well as a model for cooperation throughout the Caucasus region.
SYNOPSIS OF U.S. HUMANITARIAN DEMINING ASSISTANCE TO
GEORGIA is the least mine-affected of the three nations participating in the Beecroft Initiative. Its Government only recently formally requested U.S. humanitarian demining assistance. U.S. humanitarian activities there have been modest to date. Georgia received $27,000 dollars from the State Department in FY 2000 to acquire demining equipment to support its participation in the program of instruction provided by the Beecroft Initiative. Now, Georgia's formal request for such aid is scheduled to trigger a major U.S. increase in humanitarian demining activities there. If Congressional funding for FY 2001 matches that requested by the State Department, the U.S. will ask HALO Trust, a respected non-governmental humanitarian demining organization based in the United Kingdom, to proceed on a $1 million dollar contract to demine the Ochimchire region of Abkhazia province.
AZERBAIJAN has received $688,000 dollars in humanitarian demining aid from the State Department since FY 1999, a portion of which is funding its joint training with Armenia and Georgia, and to purchase modern demining equipment as well as a team of mine dogs for verification and mine assurance. U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan has focused on helping its internally displaced persons safely return to their homes in regions that were mined. The U.S. intends to continue supporting humanitarian demining in Azerbaijan although the precise amount of that aid cannot be forecast until the budget for FY 2001 is approved,.
Under the Beecroft Initiative, ARMENIA, received $300,000 dollars from the State Department in FY 2000 to purchase modern demining equipment, enable internally displaced persons to safely return to communities that were mined, and to participate in the joint training. The U.S. intends to continue supporting humanitarian demining in Armenia although until the budget for FY 2001 is approved, the precise amount of that aid cannot be calculated.
U.S. LEADERSHIP IN HUMANITARIAN DEMINING
Beginning with its efforts in late 1988 to help the people of Afghanistan rid themselves of the menace of landmines laid during the Soviet occupation, the United States has been in the forefront of practical efforts to protect innocent civilians from the landmine threat. Since 1993 alone, the U.S. has spent over $400 million dollars worldwide in every aspect of mine action. By the end of FY 2001, pending Congressional approval of the new State Department budget, U.S. humanitarian demining assistance worldwide is expected to reach a sum total of approximately $500 million dollars.
To advance the cause of humanitarian demining, the United States works in various international fora such as the Amended Mine Protocol of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, and the International Test and Evaluation Program for Humanitarian Demining Equipment, Processes and Methods.
To further hasten the removal of the estimated 60-70 million landmines that threaten innocent civilians in nearly ninety countries, the U.S. established the Office of the Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State for Global Humanitarian Demining (GHD) in 1997 to harness additional assets through public-private partnerships to reinforce official humanitarian demining efforts.
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