KABUL, Afghanistan, April 10 (UPI) -- Unexploded ordnance left behind by the U.S. military threaten the safety of Afghan children.
Undetonated grenades, rockets, and mortar shells were abandoned at de-commissioned firing ranges across 800-square miles of land.
With only 3 percent of the land cleared of munitions, complete removal could take two to five years and cost $250 million.
The U.S. military acknowledges that lack of planning for ordnance clearance is to blame. Without plans, funding for the project cannot be approved.
Maj. Michael Fuller, the head of the U.S. Army’s Mine Action Center at Bagram Airfield, explained, "Unfortunately, the thinking was: ‘We’re at war and we don’t have time for this.'"
70 casualties since 2012 in and around U.S. or NATO firing ranges and bases were recorded by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan. Of those casualties, 88 percent were children.
The removal of U.S. military ordnance from Afghanistan is "critical to the safety of the Afghan people and it is the right thing to do," said Edward Thomas, spokesman to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.
A U.S. military team has been assembled to survey which ranges are inflicting the most casualties and where the majority of unexploded ordnance are located. Pending congressional funding, an ordnance clearing mission could begin as early as fall.