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Pentagon's 2020 landmine policy set to stay for now

Pentagon leaders are maintaining a 2020 policy allowing for the use of anti-personnel landmines beyond the confines of the Korean peninsula, while reviewing why former Defense Secretary Mark Esper made the decisions he did regarding the policy.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) new policy ‘analysis’ comes at a time when the US Army is ploughing ahead with a multipronged approach to acquiring such new weapons, with pressure increasing on the Biden administration to reverse course. As a result, on 6 April the DoD offered up differing takes on its landmine policy. Earlier in the day, department spokesman Mike Howard emailed reporters that the policy “remains unchanged” since January 2020.

“The changes implemented, then addressed how we face an era of strategic competition that requires our military to become more lethal, resilient, and ready for future contingencies,” Howard wrote. “Landmines, including anti-personnel landmines, remain a vital tool in conventional warfare that the US military cannot responsibly forgo, particularly when faced with substantial and potentially overwhelming enemy forces in the early stages of combat.”

He added that these weapons enable ground troops to “shape an enemy’s movement to our benefit” and “withholding” these capabilities “irresponsibly risks American lives”.

However, later that day, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that although Howard’s response was “accurate and factual”, the landmine policy is under review.

“We are analysing Secretary Esper’s decision [regarding] his policy of January 2020,” Kirby told reporters. “We are analysing the process by which that decision was made to continue to espouse conventional landmine use.”

Once the initial examination is completed, the DoD will decide whether “further review” is warranted, Kirby added.

The DoD did not provide Janes

In 2018 the US Army released this illustration of its vision for a networked landmine concept. The service is now moving ahead with the top attack portion of the programme.  (US Army )

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