Afghanistan’s deadly environment could prove disastrous for any US invasion

A legacy of land mines, left behind from the war with the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, and still causing devastating effects today, could prove to the advantage of the Taliban forces in any US-led land-based invasion of the Central Asian nation, the UK newspaper,The Independent reports.

One of the plans inevitably under discussion by the United States in its war against terrorism is a possible land-based invasion of Afghanistan, but the nation’s deadliest legacy could prove to be likewise for invading ground troops, who would be entering a country containing one tenth of the world’s land mines, left by Soviet occupation forces across 80% of the vast, landlocked nation, and 27 of its 29 provinces.

According to experts, if the Americans are even contemplating a ground force, it could enter only from Pakistan and travel up the Kabul Gorge from Jalalabad, however Soviet forces seeded the perimeters of the cities of Jalalabad, Kandahar, Khost and Herat with anti-armour mines. Around Afghanistan today, according to estimates, there are still more than 10 million land mines left today in all kinds of terrain: in fields, on mountainsides, at roadsides, around the bigger cities and along irrigation ditches.

On average, between 20 and 25 Afghans are blown up by mines every day, indicating at the very least around 73,000 civilian casualties in the past 10 years alone, long after Soviet forces left in the 1980’s, and comparable with the disastrous legacy of land mines left in Angola, which has received far more public attention, thanks to a visit by Princess Diana before her death. The nation now reportedly has two million disabled men, women and children as a result of land mines.

During the 10-year Soviet occupation, forces also planted thousands of mines in ‘security zones’’ around Afghanistan’s airports, power stations and government installations. Western non-governmental organisations working in the country two years ago estimated that it would cost £80 ($117) per mine and 45 days to clear one square mile of land, making any land operation very difficult indeed.

Any military incursion would, therefore, need an army of mine clearance specialists as well as soldiers, to work calmly and slowly while travelling through some of the roughest terrain in the world while under possible threat of attack.

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