At an event hosted by the United States Institute of Peace and the HALO Trust earlier this month, a State Department official, Jerry Guilbert, told the audience that the Trump Administration’s foreign policy priority is defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) and that the focus of US support for mine action would be clearance of land liberated from ISIS. Guilbert mentioned increase support for clearance in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen and repeated that mine action funding would advance national security and foreign policy interests. The release of the Trump Administration’s budget confirms this shift in resources.
On the surface, the allocation for mine action under the Trump Administration is increased by 6% over the last confirmed Obama budget, from $185 million to $196.9 million. But the distribution of the budget is very different and reflects the “America First” mandate as described by the State Department.
|Region|| FY16 Actual
| FY18 Request
|Africa||$ 12,600||$ 13,000||3%|
|East Asia & Pacific||$ 41,085||$ 23,000||-44%|
|Europe & Eurasia||$ 8,530||$ 10,000||17%|
|Near East||$ 30,900||$ 88,900||188%|
|South & Central Asia||$ 25,090||$ 24,000||-4%|
|Western Hemisphere||$ 3,500||$ 20,000||471%|
|Discretionary||$ 45,874||$ 0||-100%|
|Management||$ 17,421||$ 18,000||3%|
|Totals||$ 185,000||$ 196,900||6%|
Whereas the Obama administration focused on Cold War legacies and matching resources to the needs, the Trump Administration is focused on ISIS-affected countries and current threats. The US Ambassador to Cambodia had given a hint of this change in focus in an interview in Phnom Penh a couple of weeks ago and the proof is here. Mine action support in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) is basically halved, dramatically reducing Obama’s recent commitment to clearance in Laos. At the same time, support for mine action in Iraq and Syria increases 350% from $23 million to $81.5 million. Guilbert had mentioned additional support for Libya and Yemen, but funding for Yemen is flat (well, the Trump Administration did just promise $100 billion in new Saudi armaments to continue the war there, so it’s probably a net negative) and funds for Libya are reduced from $2.5 million to $1 million.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the funding appears to be flat ($12.6 million to $13 million), but again the allocation changes greatly. Support for mine action in Angola is cut by more than half and Senegal would receive no support because neither country figures into conversations of national security or fighting Islamist terror groups. Those funds are re-allocated to other countries. A positive is to see Chad get a $1 million allocation as is the quadrupling of funds for the Democratic Republic of Congo (form $500K to $2 million). Countries of the Sahel affected by Al Qaeda also had flat (Somalia) or increased funds (Mali, Mauritania, Niger). Nigeria, despite the presence of Boko Haram, receives nothing, so clearly all Islamists are no equal in how they figure into the Trump Administration’s prioritization scheme.
Also, spare a thought for the Vulnerable Populations Funds, like the Leahy War Victims Fund which was one of the first sources of landmine victim assistance support. In the Trump Administration budget, the Special Populations Funds are eliminated and replaced with this:
DISABILITY PROGRAMS SEC. 7047. (a) ASSISTANCE.—Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading “Economic Support and Development Fund” may be made available for programs and activities administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to address the needs and protect and promote the rights of people with disabilities in developing countries.
The Trump Administration’s budget for mine action reflects its singular foreign policy priority: ISIS. For Syria and Iraq, this is good news (or at least the parts of Iraq liberated from ISIS; the rest of Iraq may not benefit. And it is unclear how mine clearance will be handled in Syria since the US does not have the ability to operate there in any significant manner), for the rest of the world not so much. By allocating the budget according to foreign policy priorities and not humanitarian needs, the Trump Administration has dealt as serious blow to the vision of a landmine free world in 2025.
Michael P. Moore
May 24, 2017
moe (at) landminesinafrica (dot) org