Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

Searching for IEDs in Humanitarian Mine Action

Andy Smith, 2017

The increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in recent conflicts means that Humanitarian Demining organisations frequently face IED hazards. Some IED training for national organisations has been provided by the US Government in some countries but the problem is not mentioned in the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS), so there is no guidance on which a country can base a National Standard for IED clearance.

When I was asked to help advise over this and made informal approaches to the industry leaders, I was told that those engaged in Humanitarian Mine Action should not be asked to deal with IEDs, so no guidance was necessary. Regardless of what they think should be the case, national demining organisations are facing IED challenges so I found their answer inadequate.

I am not an IED specialist although I have encountered improvised explosive devices in many countries and have some knowledge of the way that IEDs have developed in recent years. I would usually approach this kind of problem by asking around and looking at a range of SOPs, then writing something that was based on practical and achievable best practice. In this case, I did not know any HMA organisation with an IED specific SOP. House clearance and the search for booby-traps is covered in many BAC SOPs, but I could find nothing covering the particular problems associated with destroying multi-fuzed IEDs that may be designed to target those tasked with their removal.

IED clearance may have "political" or "strategic" aspects. This is obviously the case when those searching are required to disarm and dismantle devices for later forensic examination that is intended to lead to the identification of those who made or placed the IED. Predictably, those making the IEDs have responded to forensic approaches by adding initiation systems designed to target the person tying to disrupt or dismantle them. Forensic dismantling would be an inappropriate activity for any HMA organisation for two reasons. First, the HMA organisation should be seen to be impartial and avoid identification with any of the conflict factions. Second, all HMA organisations have a duty of care to their employees so must minimise their risk at all times. Accordingly, I believe that the forensic examination of IEDs would be entirely inappropriate in Humanitarian Mine Action. And that's good because I could not begin to tell anyone how to do something that I have not done, and would not do.

Based on this line of reasoning, I have drafted a Generic SOP for IED search and destruction in HMA. Being "generic", It covers the use of equipment and methods that are already widely used but without much detail. To avoid any criticism that this might provide useful information to anyone's enemy, I do not include anything that is not already in the public domain. The use of improvised mines in extensive IED minefields is not new in HMA, and any of the conventional procedures apply, so this is not covered in as much detail as the search for IEDs outside minefields.

If you want this SOP as a Word document, just ask.

The language used is intended to be IMAS compliant and simple enough for easy translation, so I have avoided using military terms and conventions whenever their meaning may not be self-evident.

Click here to read the draft SOP covering IED search in HMA - and please comment.