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United States

Last Updated: 02 November 2011

Mine Ban Policy

Mine ban policy overview

Mine Ban Treaty status

Not a State Party

Pro-mine ban UNGA voting record

Abstained on Resolution 65/48 on 8 December 2010, as in previous years

Participation in Mine Ban Treaty meetings

Attended as an observer the Tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in November–December 2010 and intersessional Standing Committee meetings in June 2011

Key developments

Mine policy review still underway


The United States of America (US) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. A review of US policy on banning antipersonnel mines was continued in 2011.

The US was the first nation to call for the “eventual elimination” of antipersonnel mines in September 1994 and participated in the Ottawa Process that led to the creation of the treaty, but did not sign in 1997. The Clinton administration set the goal of joining in 2006. However, in 2004 the Bush administration announced a new policy that rejected the treaty and the goal of the US ever joining.[1] Until the Obama administration’s policy review is completed, the 2004 Bush policy remains in place, permitting the indefinite use of self-destructing, self-deactivating antipersonnel mines anywhere in the world. In accordance with the Bush policy, as of 31 December 2010 the US would no longer use antipersonnel mines that do not self-destruct and self-deactivate (sometimes called “persistent” or “dumb” mines) anywhere in the world, including in Korea.

In November 2009, the administration of President Barack Obama publicly acknowledged that a comprehensive review of US mine policy was underway.[2] The US said in December 2009 that “it will take some time to complete, given that we must ensure that all factors are considered, including possible alternatives to meet our national defense needs and security commitments to our friends and allies to ensure protection of US troops and the civilians they protect around the world.”[3] According to then-National Security Advisor, General James L. Jones, the purpose of the review is “to specifically examine the costs and benefits that would be involved in a decision to accede to the Ottawa Treaty.”[4]

During 2010, the Department of State coordinated a series of interagency meetings with representatives of civil society, the ICRC, UN agencies, and other international organizations, as well as former Clinton and Bush administration officials responsible for mine policy. The administration has also reached out to US political and military allies, including States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, for input into the policy review. In 2011, the pace of the review slowed and one official admitted in June 2011 that the US response to the “Arab Spring” was one reason for the delay in concluding the review.[5]

Since the US participated in the Second Review Conference in November 2009, it has continued to attend Mine Ban Treaty meetings as an observer.[6] The US attended the Tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in November–December 2010 and the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in June 2011, both in Geneva. During the meetings, the US delegation met with ICBL representatives and confirmed the policy review was continuing.[7] At the Tenth Meeting of States Parties, the US made a brief statement on universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty, confirming that the policy review was still ongoing and noting there was no specific date by when it would be concluded.[8]

On 8 December 2010, the US abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 65/48 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it had in previous years. It was one of only 17 nations to abstain.

A US Department of State cable made public by Wikileaks in August 2011 showed how the US worked to convince Pacific nations not to join the Mine Ban Treaty. According to the diplomatic cable issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2009, US officials met representatives from the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau on 2 December 1997, on the eve of the Mine Ban Treaty Signing Conference in Ottawa, “at the latter three’s request to discuss their potential signature/ratification.” During the meeting, US officials warned that “the U.S. would not adhere to the Ottawa Convention and that adherence by the other three states could conflict with defense provisions of the respective bilateral Compacts of Free Association.”[9]

More than two-thirds of the US Senate wrote to President Obama in May 2010 to state strong support for the ban on antipersonnel mines and expressed confidence that, “through a thorough, deliberative review the administration can identify any obstacles to joining the Convention and develop a plan to overcome them as soon as possible.”[10]

On 30 November 2010, 16 Nobel Peace Prize laureates sent a letter to President Obama urging a US decision to join the Mine Ban Treaty. Signatories included Wangari Mathaai, Mohamed El Baradei, Shirin Ebadi, Aung San Suu Kyi, His Holiness Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, and Jody Williams.[11]  On 8 September 2010, the presidents of more than a dozen leading health associations wrote to President Obama calling on the US to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[12] 

On 1 March 2011, the 12th anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine Ban Treaty, the ICBL continued its outreach campaign launched one year prior to encourage US accession to the treaty.[13] Campaigners requested visits with over 60 US embassies worldwide, resulting in 35 meetings between US officials and ICBL representatives.[14] The US Campaign to Ban Landmines and Georgetown University co-hosted an event in Washington, DC on 1 March 2011, which included the launch of a new book on the Ottawa Process to ban mines by US mine survivor Ken Rutherford.[15]

In 2011, Handicap International, which coordinates the US Campaign to Ban Landmines, was awarded the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. It used the occasion to call for the US to join the Mine Ban Treaty.[16]

The US is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines. It submitted an annual national report on 31 March 2011, as required under Article 13. The US ratified CCW Protocol V on explosive remnants of war on 21 January 2009 and submitted its initial national annual report as required by Article 10 on 6 July 2011.

Use, transfer, production, and stockpiling

The last known US use of antipersonnel mines was in 1991 during the first Gulf War.[17] There were reports in 2009 and 2010 of US forces in Afghanistan using Claymore directional fragmentation mines.[18] However, these munitions are not prohibited under the Mine Ban Treaty if used in command-detonated mode.[19]

In February 2011, a Defense Department official confirmed to media that the US Army in December 2010 directed its field operations “to assign all stocks of persistent landmines, both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle, for demilitarization (destruction).” A State Department official said, “We have ended the use of all persistent mines,” and said that Defense Department personnel in the field had been notified that “these were off the table, that they’re being moved to the inactive stockpile and are no longer an option for use.” This confirmed implementation of the 2004 policy directive to end the use of so-called persistent mines by the end of 2010. [20]

The US is retaining a small quantity of “persistent mines” for demining and counter-mine testing and training.[21]

On 26 December 2007, the comprehensive US moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines was extended for six years until 2014.[22] US law has prohibited all antipersonnel mine exports since 23 October 1992, through a series of multi-year extensions of the moratorium.

The US has not produced antipersonnel mines since 1997. It is one of just 12 countries left in the world that either actively produces the weapon or reserves the right to do so.[23] However, the US currently has no plans to produce antipersonnel mines in the future. There are no victim-activated munitions being funded in the procurement or the research and development budgets of the US Armed Services or Department of Defense. 

Two programs that once had the potential for victim-activated features (thereby making them antipersonnel mines as defined by the Mine Ban Treaty), but that are now solely “man-in-the-loop” (command-detonated, and therefore permissible under the treaty) are being funded: XM-7 Spider Networked Munition and IMS Scorpion.[24]

In light of the termination in 2008 of the War Reserve Stocks for Allies, Korea (WRSA-K) program, and the US policy of prohibiting use of non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines in Korea after 2010, it appears that the approximately half a million mines stored in South Korea will be removed and destroyed.[25]

The Monitor has been reporting, based on official 2002 data, that the US has a stockpile of approximately 10.4 million antipersonnel mines.[26] However, knowledgeable sources have indicated to the Monitor that the current active stockpile is far smaller, and that millions of stockpiled mines have been removed from service and have been or will be destroyed.


[1] See, US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: New United States Policy on Landmines: Reducing Humanitarian Risk and Saving Lives of United States Soldiers,” Washington, DC, 27 February 2004, www.fas.org.

[2] David Alexander, “U.S. landmines policy still under review,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 25 November 2009. The review got off to a fitful start. In what was later termed a mistake, on 24 November 2009, a US Department of State spokesperson responded to a question by stating that the Obama administration had completed a review of national mine policy and concluded the existing Bush-era policy would remain in effect and the US would not join the Mine Ban Treaty. Ian Kelly, Department Spokesperson, “Daily Press Briefing,” Department of State, Washington, DC, 24 November 2009, www.state.gov.

[3] Statement of the US, Second Review Conference, Mine Ban Treaty, Cartagena, 1 December 2009.

[4] Letter from Gen. James L. Jones, US Marine Corps (Ret.), National Security Advisor, to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, 26 March 2010. He also stated they were reviewing “all mission requirements for which mines may still have a doctrinal utility. Our review seeks to determine whether each of those missions and tasks can be accomplished without the use of mines, whether through operational adaptation, the use of existing alternative systems, or the development of new technologies.”

[5] ICBL meeting with Steven Costner, Deputy Director, Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, US Department of State, in Geneva, 23 June 2011.

[6] Previously, the last time the US had attended even an informal Mine Ban Treaty-related meeting (intersessional Standing Committee meeting) was in June 2005.

[7] ICBL meeting with Steven Costner, US Department of State, and Katherine Baker, Political Adviser, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Department of State, in Geneva, 1 December 2010; and ICBL meeting with Steven Costner, US Department of State, in Geneva, 23 June 2011.

[8] ICBL, “Mine Ban Treaty Tenth Meeting of States Parties: Universalizing the Treaty, 2 December 2010,” www.icbl.org.

[9] Palau acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty on 18 November 2007 after, according to the cable, Palau “determined that the Ottawa Convention did not conflict with the Compact of Free Association.” Micronesia remains outside the Mine Ban Treaty. The Marshall Islands signed the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa on 4 December 1997, but has not yet ratified. The diplomatic cable provides “talking points” for US officials to respond to a “request” from the Marshall Islands for clarification on the US position on its potential ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty. “Concerns on Marshall Islands Ratification of the Ottawa Convention,” US Department of State cable 09STATE91952 dated 3 September 2009, released by Wikileaks on 26 August 2011, www.cablegatesearch.net.

[10] The Senate letter was organized by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D–VT) and Sen. George Voinovich (R–OH). Letter to President Barack Obama from 68 US Senators, 18 May 2010. To join an international treaty, two-thirds of the 100-member US Senate must “provide their advice and consent.” An identical letter organized by Rep. Jim McGovern (D–MA) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R–CA) was sent to President Obama on 18 May 2010 by members of the House of Representatives. Letter to President Barack Obama from 57 members of the House of Representatives, 18 May 2010. Human Rights Watch, “US: Two-Thirds in Senate Back Landmine Ban,” Press release, 8 May 2010.

[11] The letter is available at www.nobelwomensinitiative.org.

[12] The letter is available at physiciansforhumanrights.org.

[13] ICBL, “Groups Worldwide Urge the U.S. to Ban Landmines,” Press release, 1 March 2011; and ICBL, “Time for United States to Join the Mine Ban Treaty,” Press release, 1 March 2010, www.icbl.org.

[14] Zach Hudson, “US Landmine Policy Review Moving Forward,” ICBL News, July 2010, www.icbl.org.

[15] Ken Rutherford, Disarming States: The International Movement to Ban Landmines (Santa Barbara: Praeger Security International, 2011).

[16] Jean-Baptiste Richardier and Elizabeth MacNairn, “U.S. Should Take the Final Step to Ban Land Mines,” Roll Call, 26 July 2011, www.rollcall.com.

[17] The US last used mines in 1991 in Iraq and Kuwait, scattering 117,634 of them mostly from airplanes. US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on US use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 8–9.

[18] See for example, C.J. Chivers, “Turning Tables, U.S. Troops Ambush Taliban with Swift and Lethal Results,” New York Times, 17 April 2009, www.nytimes.com; and “Taliban displays ‘US weapons,’” Aljazeera, 10 November 2009, english.aljazeera.net.

[19] The use of Claymore mines in command-detonated mode, usually electrical detonation, is permitted by the Mine Ban Treaty, while use in victim-activated mode, usually with a tripwire, is prohibited. For many years, US policy and doctrine has prohibited the use of Claymore mines with tripwires, except in Korea. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 346.

[20] David Alexander, “U.S. halts use of long-life landmines, officials say,” Reuters (Washington, DC), 14 February 2011, www.reuters.com.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Public Law 110-161, Fiscal Year 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Section 634(j), 26 December 2007, p. 487.

[23] The Bush administration mine policy announced in February 2004 states, “The United States will continue to develop non-persistent anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.” See, US Department of State, “Fact Sheet: New United States Policy on Landmines: Reducing Humanitarian Risk and Saving Lives of United States Soldiers,” Washington, DC, 27 February 2004, www.fas.org.

[24] For background on Spider and IMS, and the decision not to include victim-activated features, see Landmine Monitor Report 2009, pp. 1,131–1,132; Landmine Monitor Report 2008, pp. 1,040–1,041; and earlier editions of Landmine Monitor.

[25] For more details, see ICBL, “Country Profile: South Korea,” www.the-monitor.org.

[26] For details on stockpiling, see Landmine Monitor Report 2009, pp. 1,132–1,133. In 2002, the US stockpile consisted of: Artillery Delivered Antipersonnel Mine/ADAM (8,366,076); M14 (696,800); M16 (465,330); Claymore (403,096); Gator (281,822); Volcano/M87 (134,200); Ground Emplaced Mine Scattering System/GEMSS (32,900); Pursuit Deterrent Munition/PDM (15,100); and Modular Pack Mine System/MOPMS (8,824). Information provided by the US Armed Services in spring/summer 2002, cited in US General Accounting Office, “GAO-02-1003: MILITARY OPERATIONS: Information on US use of Land Mines in the Persian Gulf War,” September 2002, Appendix I, pp. 39–43.