The U.S. will halt the production of anti-personnel land mines and move toward doing away with their use, the Obama administration said today.
The U.S. is also “diligently pursuing solutions” that would allow it comply with the Ottawa Convention, a treaty that banned the use, stockpiling and production of the mines, Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement.
The U.S. delegation attending a review conference of the treaty in Maputo, Mozambique delivered the U.S. policy change, which includes the decision to no longer acquire the mines, according to the White House. Shifts on other aspects of U.S. land mine policy remain under review.
The policy moves the U.S. closer to joining the international treaty, which was originally drafted and signed in 1997. Activists have long pressured the administration to take the step and get rid of the stockpile of 3 million anti-personnel mines.
The Obama administration delegation said the U.S. is conducting “a high fidelity modeling and simulation effort” to gauge the “the risks associated” with a decision to stop using the mines, Hayden said.
Still, with some in the U.S. military saying that anti-personnel mines still are needed in warfare, pushback came quickly from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon.
McKeon, a California Republican, said the decision demonstrates Obama’s “willingness to place politics above the advice of our military leaders.”
Rear Admiral John Kirby, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman, told reporters today that “the senior civilian and military leadership here in the Pentagon fully supports the policy that was announced this morning about the decision not to acquire or produce any more anti-personnel land mines.”
Kirby was less emphatic on the prospect of giving up the mines that remain in the inventory. He said there’s a review under way of how to reduce the risk of doing without them.
Advocates pressing the U.S. to sign the treaty called the U.S. announcement an important first step, even as they warned that ambiguity in its time line and the size of the U.S. stockpile raised concerns.
“By not setting a timeline to complete this task, the U.S. runs the risk of allowing its land mine policy review to drift beyond President Obama’s term in office,” Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S., said in a statement.