Mine Action

Last updated: 29 November 2015

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline: 1 March 2023
(Not on track to meet deadline) 

Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 4 deadline: 1 March 2022
(Just on track to meet deadline)

A sharp fall in donor support for humanitarian demining has resulted in drastic reductions in the capacity of implementing partners, less quality assurance by the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA), and a slowdown in the progress of survey and clearance. 

Recommendations for action

  • MACCA and the Directorate for Mine Action Coordination (DMAC) should develop a fundraising strategy, building on evidence of the development impact of mine action.
  • The government of Afghanistan should include mine action in its National Priority Programmes.
  • MACCA should present revised milestones for clearance in the light of reduced funding, clarifying the implications for achieving its Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 extension request targets.
  • Afghanistan should plan to fulfill its clearance obligations earlier than its Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 4 deadline to allow for slippage and possible new or newly identified contamination.
  • Afghanistan should disaggregate cluster munition remnants from other unexploded ordinance (UXO) when reporting on clearance efforts, in line with the requirements of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.


The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains one of the countries most affected 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 that added considerable quantities of UXO.

Landmines and ERW (see below for cluster munition remnants)

At the end of 2014, 253 of Afghanistan’s 400 districts were affected by mines over a total of more than 486km2, according to data provided by MACCA. Of this, almost 231km2 of mined area contained antipersonnel mines. Much of the mined area is concentrated in Kabul, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Pakhtia, and Panjshir provinces.

Survey in 2014 added 619 previously unrecorded suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) over an estimated 69km2 to the database, but as a result of clearance operations the net increase in total ERW contamination was 8.6km2 and the area of antipersonnel mine contamination fell by 9.2km2 (see table below). Survey teams located more previously unrecorded areas in the first quarter of 2015, raising the estimate of total mine contamination to 498km2 at the end of March 2015.[1] 

Remaining contamination 2013–2014[2]

Type of contamination


Area (km2)

Population affected







Antipersonnel mines







Antivehicle mines







Improvised explosive devices (IEDs)*





















Note: * Abandoned IEDs only; ** Not including the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) firing ranges. In September 2014, MACCA reported 64 ranges covering an estimated 558km2 remained to be released.[3] 

The biggest explosive threat to civilians comes from IEDs placed by non-state armed groups. The 3.54km2 that Afghanistan identifies as contaminated by IEDs applies only to abandoned IEDs (AIEDs) left in locations that are no longer considered of military significance, but most casualties are caused by newly laid devices, many of them victim-activated, which puts them in the category of weapons prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty. Pressure-plate IEDs generally have twice the explosive charge of an antivehicle mine but the trigger sensitivity of an antipersonnel mine.

Cluster munition remnants 

Soviet forces used cluster munitions during the decade-long war of resistance to the Soviet-backed government and US aircraft dropped 1,228 cluster munitions containing some 248,056 submunitions between October 2001 and early 2002.[4]

At the end of 2014, total contamination by cluster munition remnants was reported to be 6.86km2 covering four provinces.[5] These areas are said to block access to grazing and agricultural land.[6] Contamination by cluster munition remnants, however, appears more widespread than reported as demining operators say they continue to find random submunitions on demining tasks.[7] The extent of those finds is unclear as operators’ standard reporting forms only provide for recording clearance of UXO. 

Program Management 

The Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) is coordinated by MACCA with the support of a UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) project office. MACCA came under Afghan management on 1 April 2012. Prior to that, it had been a project of UNMAS implemented by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and under international management since 2001.[8] Responding to sharp falls in funding, MACCA has reduced its staff by almost 60% in the past three years, to 161 by the end of the first quarter of 2015, down from 393 in 2012 and 191 at the start of 2014.[9]

MACCA’s restructuring has taken 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.[10] In 2008, a government interministerial board assigned the lead role in mine action to the Department of Mine Clearance (DMC), renamed in 2015 the Directorate for Mine Action Coordination, which is a department of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) and reports to the Office of the Second Vice President. As of March 2015, it had 12 staff located in the MACCA offices.[11] 

Since 2012, discussions have continued among key stakeholders on the best formula for managing mine action. Afghanistan’s Article 5 extension request stated 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.”[12] Debate continued in 2015 but did not appear closer to reaching a conclusion.

An evaluation of the MAPA conducted by independent consultants Samuel Hall commissioned by UNMAS, credited MACCA with developing staff capacity to a high level, autonomously coordinating the mine action sector, building a “very efficient” integrated information management system that contributed directly to analysis and programming, pursuing a program of reforms that had increased efficiency, productivity, and safety, and demonstrating a high level of flexibility enabling it to adjust plans rapidly to match field reality. Despite these achievements, the assessment concluded that “challenges rise ahead of the MAPA, as a funding crunch and an uncertain legal status weaken the sustainability of the programme as a whole and are likely to impact its ability to deliver a country mine-free in 2023.” The report observed that UNMAS and MACCA had not provided evidence of the humanitarian impact of mine action which, as a result, was not seen as a donor priority.[13]


A technical committee comprising concerned ministries and MACCA has drafted a mine action law to be included as an annex to a 2005 law on firearms and explosive materials. As of April 2015, the draft was under review by the Ministry of Justice.[14] The lack of such a law, clarifying the structure of mine action and institutional responsibilities, has weakened representation of mine action within the government and its omission from the government’s National Priority Programme, contributing to a serious downturn in funding.[15]

Strategic planning

Afghanistan’s clearance plan for the 10 years to March 2023 was set out in the Mine Ban Treaty 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 battle 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.[16] 

In Afghan year 1394 (2015−2016), the MAPA planned to release 789 hazards totaling 75.4km2, in the process freeing 310 communities and 68 districts from all contamination. It also planned to survey 357 ERW-affected villages and more than 6,000 other communities where the contamination status is unknown and conduct post-clearance assessment on around 180 hazards completed the previous year.[17]

Afghanistan stated it planned to release 60% of its cluster munition remnants hazards by the end of 2015. The remaining hazardous areas would be tackled “later” because they were located in areas of insecurity.[18] However, in its latest Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 report (for calendar year 2014), Afghanistan stated it would clear cluster munition remnants hazards in Nangarhar and Takhar provinces totaling 5km2, nearly three-quarters of the remaining contamination, during Afghan year 1395 (which ends on 20 March 2017). It planned to clear a further three hazards totaling 0.8km2 in Afghan year 1397, and the last known two hazards covering 1.06km2 in Afghan year 1400 (which ends in March 2022, Afghanistan’s Article 4 clearance deadline).[19]


Most mine and cluster munition clearance is conducted by five long-established national and three 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 (MDDC), 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.[20] Another humanitarian operator, Agency for Rehabilitation & Energy Conservation for Afghanistan (AREA), received accreditation in 2014.[21]

As a result of funding cuts, implementing partner capacity has fallen by more than half over the last three years to just under 5,400 personnel in Afghan year 1393 (1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015).[22] By September 2015, the number of people employed in mine action for humanitarian purposes had dropped to about 4,000 and the number engaged by Sterling Demining Afghanistan on clearing ERW from ISAF/NATO firing ranges had risen to around 5,000.[23]

Deminer Safety

Two deminers were killed and 18 injured in demining incidents in 2014. Of the total, HALO Trust reported one of its deminers was killed and seven injured, two of the deminers sustaining only light or superficial injuries.[24]

Deteriorating security caused a sharp rise in casualties resulting from insurgency and criminality. A total of 34 deminers were killed, close to the total number of fatalities for the four previous years, and 27 others were injured in security incidents. Insurgents shot dead 11 deminers working for Sterling Demining Afghanistan in one incident in Helmand in December 2014, wounding at least six more. Mine action teams also experienced abductions and loss of equipment, including 17 vehicles and 78 detectors.[25] 

Land Release (Mines)

Despite a squeeze on funding for Afghanistan’s demining program, MAPA released a total of 77km2 of area in 2014, including nearly 63km2 of mined area released through clearance, matching the benchmarks set out in its Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 extension request.[26] However, the downward trend in funding continued into 2015 hindering performance and left some national operators unable to field any demining teams. For the 12 months to the end of March 2015, MACCA reported release of a total 67.38km2.[27] 

Survey in 2014 (mines) 

Afghanistan’s “Mine and ERW Impact Free Community Survey [MEIFCS],” started by MACCA in 2012, continued during 2014, implemented by a total of 28 teams provided mainly by HALO Trust (14 teams) and MCPA. Survey teams visited a total of 7,783 communities, of which 7,519 were found to be free of an explosive threat, but the survey identified 69km2 of previously unreported contamination and cancelled 14.5km2 for a net addition of 54.5km2 to the database.

MACCA had expected the survey to take two years but in 2014, as in the previous year, more than half the communities were not identified in the official gazetteer, extending the duration of the survey. In 2014, survey teams completed 38 districts, bringing the total surveyed to 173, less than half of Afghanistan’s 398 districts.

Clearance in 2014 (mines)

MACCA reported that implementing partners released almost 63km2 of mined area by clearance in 2014 (see table below), nearly 5% more than the previous year, but operations are increasingly feeling the pinch of funding constraints. Clearance operations in 1393, the Afghan year ending 31 March 2015, released 58.5km2, well below the results of recent years. At the same time, the progress of clearance has required operators to work on mined areas that are harder to reach and more sparsely contaminated. Despite the increase in area cleared in 2014, the number of antipersonnel mines destroyed was one-third less than the previous year.[28]

National implementing partners (IPs) have borne the brunt of the downturn in funding, forcing them to cut staff and discontinue use of vehicles and equipment, ensuring the downward trend in clearance will be apparent in the results for 2015. Of the five national IPs, DAFA reportedly managed to increase the area manually cleared by more than half to 11.13km2 and MCPA and MDC reportedly raised productivity in 2014, however ATC and OMAR cleared less land and lower levels of donor support looked likely to result in lower levels of clearance overall in 2015.[29] 

Community-based demining (CBD), designed to enable clearance in insecure areas and generate some economic benefits for the local population, also experienced a downturn with a fall in the number of teams from 56 at the start of the year to 24 by the last quarter of 2014. MCPA had 15 CBD teams working in Nangarhar, Paktya, and Parwan, while DAFA had nine teams working in Nimroz. Funding dropped from $15.3 million in 2013 to $2.9 million in 2014.[30]

Donor support for international IPs has proved more robust but the outlook is uncertain. HALO Trust, the biggest of the IPs, accounted for more than one-third of total MAPA funding in 2014 and was able to increase staffing from 2,715 at the start of 2014 to 3,216 at the end of the year, including 86 manual demining teams, 18 mechanical teams, 12 survey and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams and 17 weapons and ammunition disposal (WAD) teams. However, funding for the year finished lower than in 2013 and capacity dropped back to about 2,400 in 2015.[31] 

Of the three international operators, DDG cleared 2.19km2 in 2014, almost two-thirds more than the previous year, while FSD, working close to Afghanistan’s northern border with Tajikistan, released one-third less than in 2013. HALO Trust, after a fall in the amount of land cleared in 2013, released 22.53km2 in 2014, an increase of 28% on the previous year. This included 19km2 cleared manually and almost 3.2km2 by mechanical teams. HALO attributed the increase in productivity to a number of factors, including better operations management and increased use of mechanical assets such as armored excavators in ground preparation ahead of manual teams. Demining operations resulted in the destruction of 6,209 antipersonnel mines, nearly half the total destroyed by MAPA in 2014, and WAD operations destroyed another 804 antipersonnel mines and 178 antivehicle mines.[32] 

Mine clearance by humanitarian operators in 2014[33]


Areas released

Area cleared (km2)

Antipersonnel mines destroyed

Antivehicle mines destroyed

AIEDs destroyed

No. of UXO destroyed

































































Land Release (Cluster Munition Remnants)

The MACCA recorded release of one cluster munition remnants hazardous area in 2014: MDC cleared 6,300m2 destroying 20 submunitions.[35] According to the Cluster Munition Convention Article 7 transparency report, “in 2014 among 10 planned BLU contaminated hazards, just one hazard was cleared, and the other 9 hazards due to shortage of fund and security problem remained open.” It noted that the remaining cluster munition remnants hazard sites are, “located in remote and insecure areas, where its clearance seems challenging for the implementer at this stage.”[36]

HALO Trust did not work on cluster munition hazards in 2014 but reported that it destroyed 12 submunitions in the course of mine clearance operations, and a further 93 in spot/roving explosive ordnance disposal and in the course of battle area clearance.[37] 

Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 Compliance

Under Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty (and in accordance with the 10-year extension granted by States Parties in 2013), 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 Article 5 extension request, drawn up in collaboration with IPs, provided a detailed timeline and costings for completing clearance of all contamination, including ERW, within the revised deadline. Insecurity poses a significant risk but the biggest immediate challenge is donor fatigue. Afghanistan has long been the best-funded mine action program but prospects for achieving extension request targets are disappearing because of the downturn in funding. Support for humanitarian mine action appears to have been affected by key donors giving higher priority to ERW clearance[38] (see the Support for mine action profile for more details). 

Operating results are starting to reflect the funding downturn. In 1392 (2013–2014), MAPA set a target of releasing 78km2 and reportedly exceeded it, claiming to have released a total of more than 103km2, including almost 83km2 of mined area and 20.7km2 of battle area. In 1393 (2014–2015), MAPA targeted release of 83.8km2 and reported that it achieved 58.5km2 or 70% of the target.[39] 

Mine clearance in 2010–2014


Area cleared (km2)














Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 4 Compliance

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. Afghanistan is just on track to meet this deadline. 

Clearance of Afghanistan’s remaining cluster munition remnants hazards by its Article 4 deadline is well within MAPA’s capacity. Afghanistan’s Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 extension request provided for clearance of all ERW, including submunitions, by 2020.[40] However, that timetable has slipped and Afghanistan reported in 2015 that it intended to complete cluster munition remnants clearance only by 2022.[41] Whether it is achieved will depend mainly on factors outside the control of the mine action sector, notably the country’s long-running conflict. The extent of scattered cluster munition remnants suggests operators will continue to encounter residual contamination beyond the deadline.

[2] Data provided by MACCA, 11 February 2014, and 30 April 2015.

[3] “MAPA Fast Facts, July−September 2014,” undated.

[4] Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Mines Action Canada, Ottawa, May 2009), p. 27.

[5] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for 2014), Form F. The provinces are: Maydan Wardak, central region; Nangarhar, east region; Paktya, southeast region; and Takhar, northeast region.

[6] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 15 April 2013.

[7] Interviews with MACCA implementing partners, Kabul, May 2013.

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

[9] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, Operations Manager, MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[10] Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for 2008), Form A.

[11] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[12] 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.

[13] “Mine Action in Afghanistan: a success story in danger,” Samuel Hall−UNMAS Evaluation, undated but June 2015, p. 76.

[14] Emails from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015, and 11 February 2014.

[15] “Mine Action in Afghanistan: a success story in danger,” Samuel Hall−UNMAS Evaluation, undated but November 2014, pp. 62−63.

[16] Mine Ban Treaty Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 29 March 2012, pp. 167−175.

[17] MAPA Operational Work Plan 1394, MACCA website, July 2015, p. 6.

[18] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fifth Meeting of States Parties, San Jose, 2−5 September 2014.

[19] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for 2014), Form F.

[20] Email from MACCA, 10 May 2011.

[21] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[22] “Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, Annual Report 1393,” undated but 2015, p. 7.

[23] Telephone interview with Mohammad Sediq Rashid, MACCA, 13 October 2015.

[24] Emails from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015; and Farid Homayoun, HALO Trust, 9 May 2015.

[25] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015; “MACCA strongly condemns attack on deminers in Helmand Province,” MACCA Daily Archives, 14 December 2014.

[26] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015. However, the Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 report (for 2015), Form F states that 27,456,673m2 of land was released and 12,684 antipersonnel mines destroyed.

[27] Statement of Afghanistan, Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings, Standing Committee on Mine Action, Geneva, 25 June 2015.

[28] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[29] Telephone interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, 13 October 2015.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Emails from Farid Homayoun, Country Director, HALO Trust, 9 May 2015; and Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015; and telephone interview with Tim Porter, Afghanistan Desk Officer, HALO Trust, 9 October 2015.

[32] Emails from Farid Homayoun, HALO Trust, 9 May 2015; and from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[33] Email from Abdel Qudos Ziaee, MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[34] HALO Trust reported that it released 395 mined areas covering 22.29km2 and destroyed 731 items of UXO. The total of 3,216 UXO items attributed to HALO by the MACCA appears to have included stray ammunition (unfired or undamaged explosive items above 14.7mm). HALO reported it destroyed 2,671 items of stray ammunition as well as 3,666 items of small arms ammunition (below 14.7mm). Emails from Farid Homayoun, HALO Trust, 9 May 2015, and 30 October 2015.

[35] Email from MACCA, 30 April 2015.

[36] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for 2014), Form F.

[37] Email from Farid Homayoun, HALO Trust, 9 May 2015.

[38] The United States (US) Congress approved funding of $250 million in 2014 for subsurface clearance of US firing ranges, while funding for MAPA from the US State Department, its biggest donor, almost halved, falling from nearly $20 million in 1392 to $10.5 million in 1393. Funding for MAPA channeled through the UN Voluntary Trust Fund dropped from a little over $20 million in 1392 to $11.2 million in 1393. See “Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, Annual Report 1393,” undated but 2015, p. 7; telephone interview with Mohammed Sediq Rashid, MACCA, 20 May 2014; and “Afghanistan, Annual Report 2014, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” UNAMA, Kabul, February 2015, p. 22.

[39] “Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, Annual Report 1392,” undated but 2014, p. 2; and “Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan, Annual Report 1393,” undated but 2015, p. 12.

[40] Article 5 deadline Extension Request, 29 March 2012, p. 194.

[41] Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report (for 2014), Form F.