- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2020

The Pentagon is expected to roll out the government’s revision of an Obama-era policy that prohibits the deployment of certain land mines outside of the Korean Peninsula.

The move, which could come as early as Friday, would scrap a 2014 order by former President Barack Obama that brought the United States into the Ottawa Convention, which bans the use, production or stockpiling of land mines.

During a Friday morning press briefing at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper called land mines “one of very many important tools that our commanders need.”

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure we have all the tools in our toolkit that are legally available and effective to ensure our success and to ensure the protection of our soldiers, sailors and Marines,” Mr. Esper said, standing alongside Italian defense minister Lorenzo Guerini.

Development of the Pentagon’s new land mine policy began during the tenure of former Secretary James Mattis, Mr. Esper said.

“We also want to make sure these instruments — in this case, land mines — also take into account the safety of employment and safety to civilians and others after a conflict,” he said. “We’ve taken great care and consideration with regard to their employment and how they may act as remnants of war.”

Mr. Trump determined that the policy places troops at a “severe disadvantage” during a conflict, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

“The president is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops,” she said.

Anti-personnel land mines are usually buried underground and explode when stepped on. They’ve been condemned for their risk to civilians who can be killed or maimed by them, especially if they are the type that can detonate even after a long period.

Mr. Obama determined in 2014 that it was important to limit their use.

The White House statement suggested the new policy would encourage the use of smarter, “non-persistent” mines that can go defunct by themselves.

Specifically, Ms. Grisham said the Defense Department’s policy only allows combatant commanders, in “exceptional circumstances,” to deploy the mines that are designed to reduce harm to civilians or allied forces.

“This action is yet another in a series of actions taken by the Trump administration to give our military the flexibility and capability it needs to win,” Ms. Grisham said. “President Trump is rebuilding our military, and it is stronger than ever. The president will continue to support and equip our troops so that they will forever remain the greatest fighting force in the world.”

Yet Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called the decision “disappointing, “reflexive” and “unwise.”

He said efforts to limit the production, export and use of land mines, while clearing out existing mines, has bought enormous goodwill from global partners.

“The example we set has global ramifications,” Mr. Leahy said. “This decision, like so many others of this White House, reverses the gains we have made and weakens our global leadership.”

The senator said deploying new land mines could put the U.S.’s own troops at risk, given rapid movements on the battlefield, and he noted the U.S. hasn’t used mines since 1991 “in any of the protracted wars in which it has been deployed.”

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