DoD Tackles Explosive Problem of Land Mines in Kosovo
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 1999 Nobody knows exactly how many land mines are still buried in war-torn Kosovo. A host of nations, including the United States, is working on the problem, hoping against time that mines and other unexploded ordnance don't accidentally hurt or kill civilians, especially the children.
"I think the good news side is that we have found now, with others having gone in, that it's less severe and less extensive than we feared," said Deborah Rosenblum, DoD director of humanitarian assistance and anti-personnel land mine policy. "That said, there is a very real problem that will need international efforts over a number of years."
The United States will play a lead role in what Rosenblum called the "humanitarian demining" of Kosovo. She said DoD is concerned about the mine threat to returning refugees as well as to the large international civil presence currently operating in Kosovo. Mine awareness and education programs, including comic books, will be used to educate the population about the danger the mines represent. Psychological operations soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., produced a television program that the U.S. Information Agency broadcast throughout the war-torn region to warn people about the dangers.
Meanwhile, the State Department awarded a contract to specialists to find and clear minefields, Rosenblum said. Six 10-man teams are operating in the U.S. sector of Kosovo and will eventually extend their work throughout the province, she said.
"We've also sent an expert to Pristina to work at the U.S. liaison with the United Nations," she said. The United Nations' mine action center in the provincial capital coordinates international efforts currently under way to carry out demining.
Rosenblum said the Kosovo Force, KFOR, which includes some 7,000 American troops, is doing some mine awareness training in the areas where they are operating. Soldiers also have provided technical assistance to deminers, and DoD is reviewing the need for training that the U.S. soldiers could provide deminers.
"As part of our broader worldwide humanitarian demining program, we have a train-the-trainer program that could be used in Kosovo," Rosenblum said. "Our soldiers work with host nations and civilians to teach them the best ways to teach others about the dangers of mines and how to carry out mine clearance operations. It's one of the areas we are looking at to see if we can meet some of the needs that are there now."
The comic books could do the most to help out. The publisher, DC Comics, agreed to lend the world-famous characters of Superman and Wonder Woman to the education effort. The comic heroes many American soldiers grew up with are now their allies in the humanitarian mission now unfolding in Kosovo.