Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 25 August 2011

Commitment to the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Convention on Cluster Munitions status


Participation in Convention on Cluster Munitions meetings

Attended First Meeting of States Parties in Vientiane, Lao PDR in November 2010 and intersessional meetings in Geneva in June 2011

Key developments

Completed domestic ratification process on 6 June 2011


The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008.

As of early August 2011, Afghanistan had yet to deposit its instrument of ratification with the UN in New York—the final step required to complete its ratification of the convention.

On 30 April 2011, Afghanistan’s lower house of the parliament (Wolesi Jirga) approved Resolution 3 to ratify the convention. On 24 May 2011, the upper house of the Afghan parliament (Meshrano Jirga) approved the resolution. On 6 June 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed Decree 25 approving ratification. On 8 June 2011, Dr. Zalmai Rasoul, minister of foreign affairs, signed the instrument of ratification and it was sent to be deposited with the UN.[1]

Afghanistan has provided regular updates on the status of ratification. In November 2010, it stated that ratification had been delayed by parliamentary elections, but confirmed “strong steps” were being taken to ensure the swift completion of ratification.[2] In June 2011, Afghanistan informed other States Parties that the Afghan parliament has approved ratification of the convention.[3]

Afghanistan participated in most meetings of the Oslo Process that created the convention, but, despite its active support for the ban objective, did not endorse the Wellington Declaration, which would have committed it to participate fully in the formal negotiations of the convention, and did not attend the negotiations in Dublin in May 2008, even as an observer.[4] Afghanistan came to the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo in December 2008 as an observer, but unexpectedly signed the convention near the end of the conference after the Afghan representative announced that he had received instructions and authorization to do so.[5]

Since 2008, Afghanistan has played a positive and active role in the work of the convention. Afghanistan attended the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane, Lao PDR in November 2010, where it gave an update on ratification and made a statement on clearance. Afghanistan also participated in intersessional meetings of the convention in Geneva in June 2011, where it also provided updates on ratification and clearance.[6]

CMC Afghanistan has campaigned in support of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including swift ratification.[7] On 8 May 2011, campaigners met with the First Deputy (speaker) of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, Mohammad Alam Izatyar, to advocate for parliamentary approval of the convention’s ratification.

Afghanistan has not yet made known its views on several important issues related to interpretation and implementation of the convention. The United States (US) Department of State cables made public by Wikileaks have outlined the US interpretation of the convention, but the Afghanistan government has not yet made its views known (see Foreign stockpilingsection).In a December 2008 State Department cable released by Wikileaks, the US outlined its concern over how Afghanistan would interpret the convention’s prohibition on transit and foreign stockpiling, as well as Article 21 on “interoperability” or joint military operations with states not party to the convention. According to the cable, the US has interpreted the convention as allowing “U.S. forces to store, transfer, and use U.S. cluster munitions in the territory of a State Party.”[8]

Afghanistanis a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in April 1981, but has never ratified it; thus it is not a party to the CCW or its Protocol V on explosive remnants of war.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

Afghanistanhas stated on several occasions that it has not used, produced, or transferred cluster munitions.[9]

At the First Meeting of States Parties in November 2010, Afghanistan stated that it has no stockpiled cluster munitions.[10] This confirmed a previous statement made in June 2010.[11] In August 2010, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense informed the Monitor that it has no cluster munitions in its depots, and said that “about 113,196 items containing 29,559 kilograms” of old Soviet stocks had been destroyed.[12]

There is no clear accounting of former stockpiles in Afghanistan. Jane’s Information Group has listed Afghanistan as possessing KMGU dispensers and RBK-250/275 cluster bombs.[13] Standard international reference sources also list it as possessing Grad 122mm and Uragan220mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these included versions with submunition payloads.[14] In 2002, Australian photographer John Rodsted documented an estimated 60,000 tons (60 million kg) of abandoned Soviet-type submunitions, bulk storage containers (cassettes), and other paraphernalia abandoned at an area in Bagram airbase, outside Kabul.[15]

Foreign stockpiling

Some International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops operating in Afghanistan have been equipped with cluster munitions, but the current status of any possible stockpiles is not known. According to the December 2008 State Department cable released by Wikileaks, “The United States currently has a very small stockpile of cluster munitions in Afghanistan.”[16] In February 2011, an Afghan human rights group called on the US government and NATO to reveal if it stockpiles or has used cluster munitions in Afghanistan since the 2002 conflict.[17] An ISAF spokesperson told media, “ISAF conducts operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict. All weapons, weapons systems, and munitions are reviewed for legality under international law.”[18] A spokesperson for the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA) said, “We have no evidence of NATO/US using cluster munitions [in Afghanistan] since 2002.”[19] For several years, ISAF has had a policy against using cluster munitions.[20]

Soviet forces used air-dropped and rocket-delivered cluster munitions during their invasion and occupation of Afghanistanfrom 1979–1989.[21] A non-state armed group used rocket-delivered cluster munitions during the civil war in the 1990s.[22] Between October 2001 and early 2002, United States aircraft dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets in 232 strikes on locations throughout the country.[23] The Monitor is not aware of additional cluster strikes since that time.

Cluster Munition Remnants

Afghanistan has a residual threat from cluster munition remnants. Contamination resulted primarily from cluster munitions used during the Soviet occupation as well as US cluster munition strikes in 2001 and 2002.[24] Clearance operations are believed to have removed most of the contamination from the 2001–2002 air strikes.[25] Demining operators, however, continue to encounter both US and Soviet cluster munition remnants.[26] Survey in 2010 did not identify any additional cluster munition contaminated areas.[27]

Clearance of cluster munition contaminated areas

MACCA recorded clearance of 43 cluster munition sites between 2004 and 2009 covering a total area of 3.2km2, all by HALO Trust and the Afghan NGO Mine Clearance Planning Agency. Of these, six sites covering a total of 670,276m2 were reportedly cleared in 2009.[28] In 2010, MACCA reported clearance of a further 1km2 of cluster munition contaminated areas by HALO and the Organization for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR), resulting in the destruction of 594 submunitions from abandoned cluster munitions and 2,683 unexploded submunitions (see Table below).

Cluster munition clearance in 2010[29]


cleared (m2)

No. of abandoned
cluster munitions destroyed

No. of unexploded













HALO, in addition, said it cleared a further 1,328 unexploded submunitions in 2010, 696 in the course of battle area clearance and 632 during roving explosive ordnance disposal operations.[30]

Cluster munition casualties

Two casualties of unexploded submunitions were reported in Afghanistan in 2010. This represented a significant decrease over the past decade and compared to the 70 casualties recorded in 2001.[31] In Afghanistan there have been at least 771 casualties in total from cluster munitions. Some 745 casualties of cluster munition remnants were recorded between 1980 and the end of 2010. In addition, at least 26 casualties during cluster munitions strikes have been recorded.[32]


[1] The ratification process is detailed in a statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that announces completion of the domestic ratification process and confirms the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s intent to comply with the provisions of the convention. Statement by Dr. Zalmai Rasoul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 8 June 2011.

[2] Statement of Afghanistan, First Meeting of States Parties, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Vientiane, 10 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.

[3] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 29 June 2011. Notes by CMC.

[4] For details on Afghanistan’s cluster munition policy and practice through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 27–28.

[5] Two US Department of State cables subsequently made public by Wikileaks have shown how US officials had sought assurances from the highest levels of the Afghan government that Afghanistan would not join the convention; but during the Oslo Signing Conference, President Karzai decided that Afghanistan should sign the convention. “AFGHAN VIEWS ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS AND OSLO PROCESS,” US Department of State cable dated 12 February 2008, released by Wikileaks on 20 May 2011,

[6] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 29 June 2011. Notes by the CMC.

[7] For example, Afghan campaigners, including survivors of cluster munition and mines, conducted media outreach, distributed information on cluster munitions, and organized a public drumming event in Kabul to celebrate the convention’s 1 August 2010 entry into force. CMC, “Entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions Report: 1 August 2010,” November 2010, p. 11.

[8] According to the cable, “the United States reads the phrase ‘military cooperation and operations’ in Article 21 to include all preparations for future military operations, transit of cluster munitions through the territory of a State Party, and storage and use of cluster munitions on the territory of a State Party.” “DEMARCHE TO AFGHANISTAN ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS,” US Department of State cable 08STATE134777 dated 29 December 2008, released by Wikileaks on 1 December 2010,

[9] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 29 June 2011, notes by the CMC; and response to Monitor questionnaire by MACCA, “Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitoring Report 2010,” received by email from Akhshid Javid, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN in Geneva, 19 August 2010.

[10] Statement of Afghanistan, First Meeting of States Parties, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Vientiane, 10 November 2010. Notes by the CMC.

[11] Statement of Afghanistan, International Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Santiago, 8 June 2010. Notes by Action on Armed Violence/Human Rights Watch.

[12] Information provided by the Chief of Ammunition Management, Ministry of Defense, to MACCA, received by the Monitor in an email from MACCA, 9 August 2010.

[13] Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2008, CD-edition, 15 January 2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).

[14] Ibid.; and International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2005–2006 (London: Routledge, 2005), p. 233.

[15] See for example, Norwegian People’s Aid, “PTAB,” undated,

[16] “DEMARCHE TO AFGHANISTAN ON CLUSTER MUNITIONS,” US Department of State cable 08STATE134777 dated 29 December 2008, released by Wikileaks on 1 December 2010,

[17] Afghanistan Rights Monitor, “Annual Report: Civilian Casualties of War, January–December 2010.” p. 17,

[18] “Afghanistan: US military denies keeping, using cluster munitions,” IRIN, 2 February 2011,

[19] Ibid.

[20] In July 2010, Poland confirmed to the Monitor that the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan “has been equipped with 98mm mortars and the appropriate cluster munitions,” while noting, “To date, cluster munitions have never been used in combat in Afghanistan” by Polish forces. Poland also confirmed that the ISAF policy of no use of cluster munitions remains in effect, and stated that this policy has been incorporated into Polish rules of engagement. Letter DPB 2591/16/10/80613 from Marek Szcygiel, Deputy Director, Security Policy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, 16 July 2010.

[21] CMC fact sheet prepared by Human Rights Watch, “Cluster Munitions in the Asia-Pacific Region,” October 2008.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Human Rights Watch, “Fatally Flawed: Cluster Bombs and their Use by the United States in Afghanistan,” Vol. 14, No. 7 (G), December 2002,

[24] Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 27.

[25] For example, HALO has reported that it cleared 9,000 unexploded US submunitions in 2002–2003. Email from Ollie Pile, Weapons and Ammunition Disposal Officer, HALO, Kabul, 30 June 2009; and email from Tom Dibb, Operations Manager, HALO, 3 June 2010.

[26] Interviews with demining operators, Kabul, 12–18 June 2010. In 2009, HALO cleared 2,607 unexploded submunitions; and emails from Ollie Pile, HALO, Kabul, 30 June 2009, and from Tom Dibb, HALO, 3 June 2010.

[27] Email from MACCA, 10 May 2011.

[28] MACCA records cleared submunitions under unexploded ordnance, not as a separate item. Email from MACCA, 14 July 2010.

[29] Response to Monitor questionnaire by MACCA, 10 May 2011.

[30] Response to Monitor questionnaire by HALO, 30 May 2011.

[31] MACCA, “Fact Sheet on Cluster Munitions in Afghanistan,” June 2011.

[32] Handicap International (HI), Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p, 95. The ICRC recorded 707 casualties occurring during cluster munition use between 1980 and 31 December 2006 to which 36 casualties from 2007 to the end of 2009 recorded by MACCA were added. Due to under-reporting it is likely that the numbers of casualties during use as well as those caused by unexploded submunitions were significantly higher. Email from MACCA, 18 February 2010; and MACCA, Fact Sheet on Cluster Munitions in Afghanistan, June 2011.