While long-term stabilisation efforts have resulted in some progress, Iraq still ranks among the world’s most heavily mined countries. Explosive clearance teams supporting the country’s reconstruction are faced with hugely complex and hazardous undertakings. This is reflected in the Directorate of Mine Action’s (DMA) mandatory rigorous accreditation process, which calls for exceptional levels of technical skill and sophisticated equipment in mine clearance operations. Furthermore, it is highly advantageous if organisations already demonstrate a strong local presence with well-established partners on the ground. GCS is excellently equipped for the task ahead.
GCS in Iraq
With an office in Baghdad, the GCS team encompasses both Iraqi and international staff. They bring a wealth of expertise from decades of various clearance operations throughout the country. GCS understands the importance of recruiting and training local staff - their local knowledge, technical expertise and dedication to ridding their country of mines is instrumental, as well as their knowledge of the complexities of working in various regions in Iraq. GCS can conduct clearance operations across Iraq and will focus in areas where GCS technology, experience and operational capability can really make a difference.
GCS recently became one of the few international companies to be DMA accredited to conduct a variety of tasks such as the search and clearance of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and landmines. This followed a year of intense preparation and demanding field inspections. In adherence with the requirements, GCS employs International Mine Standards (IMAS) Level 4 certified experts, which means that they are specifically qualified to safely and effectively conduct Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD). CEO Philipp von Michaelis says, “the standards required for this accreditation greatly exceed those required for traditional demining, and this attests to GCS’s expertise in conducting IEDD in a safe and efficient manner in highly treacherous environments.” The licence additionally permits GCS to conduct Manual Demining, Battle Area Clearance, Technical Survey and Mine Risk Education. Accreditation for Non-technical Survey is close to completion.
GCS: Safety through excellence
The Iraq-Iran war in the 80s, followed one decade later by the Gulf War left the country ravaged and contaminated with explosive remnants of war. The 2003 US war with Iraq and ensuing prolonged internal conflict further littered the country with millions of unexploded ordnance. The problem was once again compounded by the ISIS occupation of 2014-2017, which left in its wake an IED-proliferation of previously unseen magnitude. There are daily civilian casualties in Iraq, as a result of mines, the most recent tragedies involving farmers who had never come across IEDs before.
During their retreat, ISIS purposefully placed booby traps and minefield-style obstacle belts in staggering numbers in public and private infrastructures including houses, hospitals, schools and playgrounds. Unexploded IEDs lie hidden under rubble littering roads and farmland. According to the UN, the bulk of the unprecedented clearance work in Mosul, alone, will take a decade. As von Michaelis says, “what we are witnessing is an extraordinary scale and complexity of contamination, where IEDs have eclipsed ‘legacy’ contamination from earlier conflicts. This is not typical one-dimensional explosive ordnance-clearance work and is very complex and demanding.”
The right technology
Given the improvised and unknown nature of the IED devices in urban settings, and the sheer proliferation involved, traditional manual explosive clearance has almost become impossible. Clearance operations are further impeded by the colossal amounts of debris from collapsed buildings and the deployment of heavy armoured machinery to sift through the rubble has become a necessity. Von Michaelis explains, “it presents enormous challenges to the organisations tasked to neutralise these threats and requires extremely well-trained experts using suitable tried and tested technologies to render operations safe and effective.”
The DMA machine accreditation GCS is already well underway. Both state-of-the-art multi-purpose platforms, the GCS-100 and GCS-200 , can be fitted with interchangeable, custom-made attachments and tools to conduct C-IED, Mine and Runway clearance operations. By deploying its cutting-edge equipment and highly-skilled certified staff, GCS can ensure that the very highest mine clearance standards are adhered to. Von Michaelis concludes, “until all types of explosive ordnance are cleared, and areas made safe, displaced people cannot safely return home. This clearance is a crucial step in rebuilding Iraq. GCS is greatly committed to supporting this goal by delivering this critical work.”