- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2020

In an era of great power competition with near-peer rivals like China and Russia, the Trump Administration says Obama-era policies like the ban on landmines needlessly hinders the ability of U.S. military troops to carry out their missions.

On Friday, the administration formally canceled the presidential policy on landmines in favor of one administered and managed by the Department of Defense.

Landmines will now be on the table for military commanders in the future, Pentagon officials said.

“These systems help protect defending forces from both enemy armor and dismounted threats and ensure units are not outflanked or overrun when under attack,” according to the Defense Department memo released Friday.

Administration officials said the “strategic environment” has changed since former President Obama was in office in 2014 and issued a directive to no longer produce or acquire anti-personnel landmines for use outside the Korean Peninsula, where they assist in protecting South Korea from North Korean incursions.

Even with loosening of the regulations, a ban continues to be in effect regarding “persistent” landmines - those that don’t have an automatic self-destruct or deactivation function after a set period of time.

“The (Defense) Department will only employ, develop, produce or otherwise acquire landmines that are “nonpersistent,” according to the new Pentagon memo released late Friday.

All landmines — whether individually placed on a battlefield or delivered remotely, such as by an artillery shell — will be designed to self-destruct within 30 days or less and have a backup self-destruct feature, officials said.

Defense Department officials said they stand behind the safeguard mechanisms on any U.S. landmine. They cite a 6 in 1 million chance that one of their anti-personnel mines will be active after a predetermined period.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is leaving it up to the combatant commanders to decide whether or not to use landmines.

“I am confident (they) can properly determine when it is necessary and appropriate to use landmines in an operation context while limiting the risk of unintended harm to noncombatants,” Mr. Esper wrote in the memo.

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