International Operation Name: United Nations Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian / Mine Awareness and Clearance Training (UNOCA / MACTP)
International Operation Dates: 1989/02/01 – 1993/11/30
Mandating Organization: United Nations
Region Name: Asia
Canadian Operation Name: Operation DECIMAL
Canadian Operation Dates: 1989/02/17 – 1990/08/31
The United Nations launched Operation SALAM to assist in the return of refugees to, and the rehabilitation of, Afghanistan. Operation SALAM included a mine awareness training program designed for Afghan de-miners and to provide mine awareness training to returning Afghan refugees
With the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, that country soon became home to one of the largest landmine problems in the world: an estimated 10 million mines had been scattered through the country and, more particularly, on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier, the route home for the estimated 6-8 million refugees who had sought safe haven in Pakistan. Dropped or laid mainly by the Soviet Union, these primarily anti-personnel mines had effectively reduced the amount of land under cultivation in Afghanistan by 40 per cent: the farmland was simply too dangerous to work. But Soviet mines were not the only danger: the Mujahideen had scattered anti-tank and anti-vehicle mines in large numbers as well, and neither side had maintained accurate records as to where the mines were located. In February 1989 the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan. The United Nations Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan (UNGOMAP) attempted to return refugees to their home. In this effort, they cooperated with other United Nations agencies and certain non-governmental organizations. As part of this effort, the World Food Program provided 60,000 tons of food to needy Afghans in 1991 alone, while the Food and Agriculture Organization provided 6,800 tons of seeds and more than 500,000 fruit and poplar saplings.
UNOCA also assumed responsibility for the Mine Awareness and Clearance Training Program, which would subsequently become an integral part of Op SALAM. The key objectives of MACTP were to increase awareness among refugees of the dangers they would face from mines as they returned to Afghanistan and to train 15,000 Afghan deminers.
Canadian participation in MACTP began on 10 June 1988 with a request from the UN Secretary General. A two-man reconnaissance team went to Pakistan in December and, following consultations there, recommended that the commitment should be set at twelve, including three female officers to work with local women. They also recommended that the deployment be for four months. These recommendations were accepted, and NDHQ issued its tasking order (under the designation Operation DECIMAL) on 17 February 1989.
Given the unit name of Canadian Contingent MACTP (CC MACTP), the Canadians arrived in Pakistan on 23 March 1989. Operating in Peshawar, the CC MACTP was soon busy in training Afghan Mine Clearance Training Instructors and in mine awareness training. Two all-male teams provided instruction on a Mine Clearance Training Course, while the female members provided technical advice to, and instructed on the Mine Awareness Programme (MAP), mainly to non-governmental organizations. The senior Canadian female officer filled the position of Mine Awareness Program Coordinator.
The term for the first contingent expired on 25 July. The second contingent arrived in Pakistan on 17 July. Progress made during the initial rotation as well as internal MACTP reorganization meant that the mine clearance training and awareness programmes were able to run smoothly, and that persuaded Canada that it would be worthwhile to continue its contribution at least until August 1990.
The third contingent arrived in Islamabad on 20 November 1989, with the outgoing rotation departing on 24 November. The new rotation continued the work of the previous two contingents. They, too, continued to improve the program of instruction and develop new training aids, including a handbook for illiterate people. Taking local cultural imperatives into consideration, two different curricula were also developed, one for men and another for women.
The fourth contingent arrived on 23 March 1990. They continued the work of the previous rotation, but also advanced several other programs, including a “booby-trapped” house for training purposes. They returned to Canada at the end of August 1990, which terminated Op DECIMAL.
Overall, 50 Canadian Forces personnel participated in UNOCA/MACTP.
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