Minefield 618, Afghanistan
7.15am. Debriefing of a 10-people strong de-mining team of MDC at the border of minefield location.
Minefield 618 is located on a steep hill close to Agro Khel village of Mohammad Agha district, Logar Province.
May 2012, Afghanistan.
In 1996/1997 Shinkai Gundai (Pashtu: Green Hill) was a front line between Taliban forces advancing to take control of Kabul, and the Northern Alliance (then called Shura-e-Mazar) consisting of Anti-Taliban Mujaheddin militias. 15 minutes away from Agro Khel village there are remains of an Al-Qaeda training camp that in 1999 was the main one in Afghanistan. 9.11 terrorists were trained there prior to their departure to U.S.
Mine Detection Center, an Afghan organization of de-miners was established in 1989, same year when USSR forces left Afghanistan. Almost every member of the organization is a former Mujaheddin. The organization has managed to bring together Islamic fighters from all militas that operated in the country. Former sworn enemies are now working together on de-mining of country.
For the first 5 years the organization worked with no real records kept, while aiming at some of the country’s worst minefields. Since the 1994, when records were started for a period of 15 years, MDC has cleared 180 square kilometres of mines and battlefields. Till 2009 De-miners removed close to 7,000 anti-tank mines, 12,000 anti-personnel mines and approximately 150,000 UXO (unexploded ordanance). The work has had its toll. Over the years MDC has lost 30 colleagues. 200 were wounded, some severely.
Apart from being extremely dangerous, it is a painstaking work. A de-miner clears a day roughly 60 square meters of land. He’s paid 300 US Dollars a month for that.
Of 1,500 MDC staff, more than 1,100 are actual de-miners. Other employees deal with logistics, security, management, are cooks, drivers, planners.