Trump rolls back Obama-era restrictions on land mines

Smoke rises from minefield in Telelverid region after Peshmerga forces detonated landmines placed by DAESH forces to intervene the passing of Peshmergas during an operation against Daesh terrorists in the outskirts of Kirkuk, Iraq on September 30, 2015.

Ali Mukarrem Garip | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to roll back restrictions on the use of land mines, the White House announced on Friday.

The decision will reverse a 2014 policy that limited the use of the explosive devices to the Korean peninsula. The new policy will enable the use of anti-personnel land mines elsewhere in the world in “exceptional circumstances.”

The White House said the new policy will apply to “advanced, non-persistent” landmines that are “specifically designed to reduce unintended harm to civilians and partner forces.” Non-persistent landmines typically self-destruct, though some experts have questioned their effectiveness.

Anti-personnel land mines that do not self-destruct are banned by more than 150 countries because of their tendency to inflict civilian casualties, often years after they are used in conflict.

“The Department of Defense 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,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “The President is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper described land mines as an “important tool” during a press conference Friday at the Pentagon alongside his Italian counterpart.

“That said, in everything we do we also want to make sure that these instruments, in this case land mines, also take into account both the safety of employment and the safety to civilians and others after a conflict,” Esper said.

Some lawmakers pushed back following reports that the administration would roll back its land mine restrictions.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who has pushed to end the global use of anti-personnel land mines, said in a statement on Thursday that he had asked the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to hold back on making a final decision.

“The current policy, limiting the use of this inherently indiscriminate weapon to the Korean Peninsula, is the culmination of nearly 30 years of incremental steps, taken by both Democratic and Republican administrations after extensive analysis and consultation, toward the growing global consensus that anti-personnel mines should be universally banned,” Leahy said.

Leahy could not be reached for comment on Friday because of the president’s ongoing impeachment trial in the Senate.

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