At its height in late 2014, ISIS controlled nearly one third of Iraq’s territory. Since then, Iraqi forces and Kurdish militia, with strong support from the counter-ISIS coalition, have evicted the violent extremist group from most of the area it once controlled.
But as these terrorists are chased out of one town after another, they leave behind a landscape sown with improvised explosive devices, set particularly around critical infrastructure.
ISIS’ strategy is to not only prolong insecurity and inflict additional casualties on the local populace, but also to delay economic redevelopment in communities they once held.
“ISIS adopted a scorched earth policy in many of the areas it controlled,” wrote Program Manager for the Middle East in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM), Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, Mr. Solomon Black in a recent blog post.
“The terrorist group tried to make it impossible for civilians to re-inhabit them either by destroying or by placing explosives around critical infrastructure, such as electrical equipment, water treatment facilities, hospitals, public health centers, and schools.”
In an effort to help hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis return to their homes in areas liberated from ISIS, the United States is working to clear these explosive hazards, wrote Mr. Black.
Take, for example, Ba’ashiqah, a town in Northern Iraq. As they retreated from Mosul, the terrorists placed explosives around the town’s already badly-damaged water system. In response, the PM Bureau and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad partnered with the Janus Global Operations company, funding its efforts to find and remove the explosives. Just 35 days later, the pipeline, pump house, and water well, as well as nearly 12,000 square meters of ground around them, were cleared of booby traps, and repairs to the system could begin. Once fully operation, it will provide water for some 2,000 families.
“With smart investments in the work of partners like Janus to support reconstruction, the United States demonstrates its enduring commitment to partnership with the Iraqi people,” wrote Mr. Black.
“This work will allow local governments and humanitarian organizations to conduct the hard work of repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, a key first step to enabling families to return home and begin bringing daily life back to normal.”