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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Land Mines?

In the past there has been some issues with land mines.  They are a wonderful defensive tool, and as CBU-49, an airfield denial weapons.  On the other hand, left over land mines have resulted in the death or maiming of large numbers of civilians.  Because of this danger to civilians, an effort, which included the late Princess Diana, has resulted in land mines being taken from the battlefield.

The question has come up again as a result of the Battle of Wanat, in Afghanistan.  Here is a comment of the possible benefit the emplanting of land mines might have provided to the US Soldier defending Wanat.  The person writing, who remains anonymous, is familiar with the issue.
One factor generally ignored in the whole Wanat situation is the unofficial land mine moratorium that has been imposed on US forces (except in Korea) since 1997.

In the olden days, by SOP an infantry platoon habitually implaced a hasty protective minefield on the enemy's most dangerous avenue of approach or deadspace that could not otherwise be covered by direct fire, or both.  If the Wanat defenders had been able to place such an obstacle in the ravine near the OP, the enemy would have been unable to approach the position without detonating the mines and the attack would have probably been halted before it started.  While this wouldn't have prevented the very stealthy enemy from occupying positions within the village, the fires from the village were far less deadly than the fires from close in near the OP and if the fight had started prematurely, perhaps, the village positions would not have be able to have been occupied yet.

The moratorium started as an international effort, most notably pushed by Princess Di, in response to the massive sowing of mines in the Balkans which were killing or maiming a lot of civilians after the fact.  These mines were old-style WW2 technology

However, ironically, by the time the US adopted the moratorium, American technology had minimized the possibility of mines maiming civilians. The modern mines could be both remotely emplaced and removed through either detonation or inactivation and were relatively easy to set up and take down.  Infantrymen could have easily emplaced a field big enough to hinder, if not completely stop, enemy encroachment and provide early warning at dusk and take it down at dawn. Additionally, field artillery has the capability to fire and emplace minefields as well, which can also be removed remotely.  However, such options are no longer available to US soldiers.

The only mine the infantry are allowed to still carry, the Claymore, also now has restrictions on its use.  It cannot be used in tripwire mode, only in command detonation mode, meaning someone has to actually trigger it from a fighting position to which the mine is connected by wire.  This pretty much means the Claymore has to be within line of sight of the firer, making it far less useful to cover deadspace.

Also ironically, supposedly there are a lot of mines throughout Afghanistan left over from the Soviet era, so the moratorium doesn't even protect civilians there.

The moratorium is obviously a political decision but, perhaps, there should have been some discussion about the sense of it given modern US technology, before sending troops into harm's way where the mines would have the potential to save lives.
Lots of otherwise good ideas have adverse consequences.  Nine killed and 31 wounded (including 4 Afghani soldiers) is a definite adverse consequence.

Regards  —  Cliff

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