Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), Chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee, joined Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA), who is a senior Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Ranking Member on its Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee, to introduced legislation requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to develop and implement a strategy for removing unexploded ordnance in Syria and Iraq.
The bill, titled the Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act, specifically requires the DOD, in concurrence with the Department of State (DOS), to provide assessments about threats posed by improvised explosive devices, landmines, and other ordnance to US strategic and military populations as well as the countries’ civilian populations. The lead Republican on the legislation is Congressman Ted Poe (TX).
“As U.S. and allied forces liberated territory from ISIS control in Syria and Iraq, the retreating killers set thousands of mines and explosives to kill and maim not only our troops, but innocent people returning to their homes,” said Congressman Poe. “This evil practice has made entire towns and villages uninhabitable and stalled any chance of rebuilding thriving communities ISIS once sought to destroy. If we hope to ever be rid of ISIS’s terror, we must address the deadly traps it left behind. The Unexploded Ordnance Removal Act will direct the Pentagon to address this horrific remnant of war, allowing the Syrian and Iraqi people to return to their homes and begin rebuilding their lives. It’s time to rebuild the lives of those who have already suffered at the hands of ISIS and achieve the U.S. long-term goal of restoring peace and stability to this troubled part of the world and by extension, ensuring our own security.”
“ISIS has lost over 90% of its territory in Syria and Iraq, and now we need to address the aftermath of their abusive control over the region,” said Congressman Keating. “One imminent focus of our attention needs to be unexploded ordnance there. The Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS has caused a proliferation of mines around civilian population centers, including schools, hospitals, and places of worship. Worse, oftentimes, these devices are hidden in everyday objects such as refrigerators or toys. If these explosives are not cleared and continue to maim and kill civilians, including children, the lasting insecurity will provide the perfect environment for the rise of other terrorist groups. A concerted strategy to remove unexploded ordnance will not only promote the safety of our own military personnel there and those of our allies, but of the tens of thousands of innocent civilians working to rebuild their communities.”
According to the DOS, an estimated 10-15 million landmines are still hidden in Iraq and the majority of injuries and deaths caused by them are to children. According to Human Rights Watch, in two months – August and September of 2016 – 69 civilians were killed by explosive devices, including 19 children. Human Rights Watch further determined that in the three months between October 21, 2017 and January 20, 2018, which followed the liberation of Raqqa from ISIS, almost 500 people, including over 150 children were either injured or killed by unexploded ordnance.