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Last Updated: 27 September 2012

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Commitment to the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Convention on Cluster Munitions status

State Party

Participation in Convention on Cluster Munitions meetings

Attended Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011

Key developments

Ratified on 8 September 2011 and became a State Party on 12 March 2012.


The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008 and ratified on 8 September 2011. Afghanistan became a State Party on 12 March 2012.

In July 2012, a committee was established to help develop the legal framework necessary to ensure Afghanistan’s implementation of both the Convention on Cluster Munitions and Mine Ban Treaty.[1]

Afghanistan’s initial Article 7 transparency measures report for the Convention on Cluster Munitions is due by 28 August 2012.

Afghanistan’s lower house of the parliament (Wolesi Jirga) approved Resolution 3 to ratify the convention on 30 April 2011 and the upper house of parliament (Meshrano Jirga) approved the resolution on 24 May 2011. President Hamid Karzai signed Decree 25 approving ratification on 6 June 2011 and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Zalmai Rasoul signed the instrument of ratification on 8 June 2011.[2] Afghanistan deposited its instrument of ratification with the UN in New York on 8 September 2011, becoming the 62nd State Party.

Afghanistan participated in most meetings of the Oslo Process that created the convention, but despite its active support for the ban objective, it 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.[3] 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.[4]

Since 2008, Afghanistan has played a positive and active role in the work of the convention. Afghanistan attended the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Beirut, Lebanon in September 2011, where it made several statements on topics such as victim assistance and clearance. At the meeting, the Afghanistan representative said, “My country is committed to implement fully all of the obligations” of the convention, especially victim assistance and clearance.[5]

Afghanistan participated in intersessional meetings of the convention in Geneva in June 2011, but did not attend intersessional meetings in April 2012.

Afghanistan is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty.

Interpretive issues

Afghanistan has not yet stated its views on several important issues related to interpretation and implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. US Department of State cables made public by Wikileaks in 2011 outlined the US interpretation of the convention, but the Afghanistan government has not yet stated its views (see Foreign stockpiling section). In a December 2008 State Department cable, 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.”[6]

Convention on Conventional Weapons

Afghanistan signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in April 1981, but has not ratified it, so the country is not a party to the CCW.

At the CCW Fourth Review Conference in November 2011, Afghanistan did not make any national statements to express its views on the chair’s draft text of a proposed CCW protocol on cluster munitions, but on the final day of the conference it was one of 50 countries that endorsed a joint statement declaring that there was no consensus on the draft protocol and that it was unacceptable from a humanitarian standpoint.[7]

The Review Conference concluded with no agreement on a protocol or proposals to continue negotiations in 2012, thus ending the CCW’s work on cluster munitions.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

At the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties in September 2011, Afghanistan stated that it “does not use, produce or transfer Cluster Munitions in the country.”[8]

Previously, in 2010, Afghanistan stated that it has no stockpiled cluster munitions.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] Standard international reference sources also list it as possessing Grad 122mm and Uragan 220mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these included versions with submunition payloads.[12] 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.[13]

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.”[14] In February 2011, an Afghan human rights group called on the US government and NATO to reveal if it has stockpiled or has used cluster munitions in Afghanistan since the 2002 conflict.[15] 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.”[16] 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.”[17] For several years, ISAF has had a policy against using cluster munitions.[18]

Soviet forces used air-dropped and rocket-delivered cluster munitions during their invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979–1989.[19] A non-state armed group used rocket-delivered cluster munitions during the civil war in the 1990s.[20] 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.[21] The Monitor is not aware of additional cluster strikes since that time.


[1] Email from Firoz Alizada, Campaign Manager, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 2 July 2012.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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 08KABUL346 dated 12 February 2008, released by Wikileaks on 20 May 2011, http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=08KABUL346&q=cluster%20munitions.

[5] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 14 September 2011, http://www.clusterconvention.org/files/2011/09/statement_afghanistan_update.pdf.

[6] 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, http://bit.ly/KtrvMR.

[7] Joint Statement read by Costa Rica, on behalf of Afghanistan, Angola, Austria, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Iceland, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe. CCW Fourth Review Conference, Geneva, 25 November 2011. List confirmed in email from Bantan Nugroho, Head of the CCW Implementation Support Unit, UN Department for Disarmament Affairs, 1 June 2012.

[8] Statement by Dr. Zia Nezam, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 14 September 2011, http://bit.ly/LrrNBD.

[9] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions First Meeting of States Parties, Vientiane, 10 November 2010. Notes by the CMC; and Statement of Afghanistan, International Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Santiago, 8 June 2010. Notes by Action on Armed Violence/Human Rights Watch.

[10] 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.

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

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

[13] See for example, Norwegian People’s Aid, “PTAB,” undated, http://npaid.websys.no.

[14] “Demarche to Afghanistan on cluster munitions,” US Department of State cable 08STATE134777 dated 29 December 2008, released by Wikileaks on 1 December 2010, http://bit.ly/KtrvMR.

[15] Afghanistan Rights Monitor, “Annual Report: Civilian Casualties of War, January–December 2010.” p. 15.

[16] “Afghanistan: US military denies keeping, using cluster munitions,” IRIN, 2 February 2011, www.irinnews.org.

[17] Ibid.

[18] 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.

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

[20] Ibid.

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