The United States has allowed it military to deploy self-destruct landmines in conflict zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria reversing an Obama-era policy prohibiting the US from using land mines outside of the Korean Peninsula.
"The Department of Defense (DoD) has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama Administration's policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries," the White House said in a statement Friday. "The President is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops."
In another statement issued hours after the White House statement, the DoD explained, “Landmines, including anti-personnel landmines (APL), remain a vital tool in conventional warfare that the United States military cannot responsibly forgo, particularly when faced with substantial and potentially overwhelming enemy forces in the early stages of combat. Withholding a capability that would give our ground forces the ability to deny terrain temporarily and therefore shape an enemy’s movement to our benefit irresponsibly risks American lives.”
“Technologically advanced safeguards are available that allow landmines to self-destruct, or in the event of a self-destruct failure, to self-deactivate within a prescribed period of time,” the statement said adding that DoD’s new policy continues to prohibit the operational use of any “persistent” landmines (landmines without a self-destruct/self-deactivation function).
Under this policy, if combatant commanders authorize the use of landmines in a major combat situation, those landmines will include the aforementioned safeguards that will prevent them from being a threat to civilians after a conflict ends, the statement added.
The new policy is said to be shaped by US experience in Iraq and Syria where militants could approach US fortifications without fear of steeping on landmines.
In 2014, the Obama administration announced its intention to eliminate its stockpile of antipersonnel land mines and eventually implemented a policy against the use of land mines outside of the Korean peninsula.
The US Russia and China are not signatories to the Ottawa Convention, a 1997 U.N. treaty, signed by 164 countries that banned the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and calling for their destruction.
The U.S. Army is said to have started working on a new generation of land mines having self-destruct features besides intelligence-gathering ability, Popular Mechanics reported in a 2019 article. “The service wants to introduce a new generation of mines that can pose a credible threat to high-tech armies as well as “phone home” and report enemy troop movements.”