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Last Updated: 23 August 2014

Cluster Munition Ban Policy


The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 December 2008, ratified on 8 September 2011, and became a State Party on 1 March 2012.

In April 2014, Afghanistan informed States Parties that the Ministry of Justice has reviewed national implementation measures for the ban convention and advised that existing law should be amended.[1] Once the review is completed, draft legislation will be sent to the cabinet and then parliament for review and approval.[2] A committee of representatives from the Department of Mine Clearance, the ICRC, and mine action NGOs has been providing input on the national implementing legislation.[3]

Afghanistan submitted its initial Article 7 transparency report for the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 30 August 2012 and provided updated annual reports on 19 May 2013 and 27 April 2014.[4]

Afghanistan participated in most meetings of the Oslo Process that created the convention, but despite actively supporting the ban objective it did not endorse the Wellington Declaration that would have committed it to participating fully in the formal negotiations of the convention; it also did not attend the negotiations in Dublin in May 2008, not even as an observer.[5] Afghanistan did attend the Convention on Cluster Munitions Signing Conference in Oslo in December 2008 only as an observer, but unexpectedly signed the convention near the end of the conference after the representative announced that he had received instructions and authorization to do so.[6]

Since 2008, Afghanistan has played a positive and active role in the work of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It has participated in every Meeting of States Parties of the convention, including the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in Lusaka, Zambia in September 2013. Afghanistan attended the convention’s intersessional meetings in Geneva in 2011, 2013, and April 2014.

At the Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Afghanistan made an intervention on international cooperation and assistance, while at the 2014 intersessional meetings it made statements on national legislation, victim assistance, clearance, stockpile destruction and retention, and international cooperation and assistance.

Afghanistan has voted in favor of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions condemning the Syrian government’s cluster munition use, including Resolution 68/182 on 18 December 2013, which expressed “outrage” at Syria’s “continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights…including those involving the use of…cluster munitions.”[7]

Afghanistan is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. Afghanistan signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in April 1981, but it is not party to the CCW as it never ratified the convention.

Interpretive issues

Afghanistan has not yet provided its views on several important issues related to its interpretation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but United States (US) Department of State cables made public by Wikileaks in 2011 have outlined US interpretation of the convention as it relates to Afghanistan (see section on Foreign stockpiling). 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.[8]

Use, production, and transfer

In its initial Article 7 report, Afghanistan declared that it has no “production industry” for manufacturing cluster munitions.[9] In September 2011, Afghanistan stated that it “does not use, produce, or transfer Cluster Munitions in the country.”[10]

Soviet forces used air-dropped and rocket-delivered cluster munitions during their invasion and occupation of Afghanistan from 1979–1989, while a non-state armed group used rocket-delivered cluster munitions during the civil war in the 1990s.[11] US aircraft dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets in 232 strikes on locations throughout the country between October 2001 and early 2002.[12] The Monitor is not aware of additional attacks involving the use of cluster munitions since that time.

Stockpiling and destruction

In September 2013, Afghanistan informed States Parties that concerning Article 3 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, “Afghanistan has destroyed all its Cluster Munitions stocks before the CCM entered into force.”[13] In October 2013, it stated that concerning cluster munitions, “Afghanistan is pleased to have destroyed all weaponry of this kind within its military stockpile.”[14] In April 2014, Afghanistan again stated that it destroyed all stockpiles of cluster munitions before the convention entered into force and no longer has a stockpile.[15]

As in the previous year’s report, the April 2014 Article 7 report stated that Afghanistan “has not officially announced” the completion of its stockpiled cluster munitions, but reported that “the Ministry of Defence verbally confirms that there is not any stockpile of cluster munitions left with Afghan National Forces.”[16] This would appear to indicate that there are not any stocks under the jurisdiction and control of national forces, but additional stocks abandoned in the past by the government may continue to be discovered.

Afghanistan’s Article 7 reports have contained information under stockpile destruction indicating significant destruction in 2005–2011 and further destruction in 2012 and 2013.[17] Given the government’s statements that there are no longer any stocks, these destroyed items are likely cluster munitions that were abandoned by other combatants in the past (and recently discovered) and/or cluster munition remnants destroyed in mine action and clearance operations. These are all considered cluster munition remnants under the Convention on Cluster Munitions and not stockpiled cluster munitions.

In 2008, Jane’s Information Group listed Afghanistan as possessing KMG-U dispensers and RBK-250/275 cluster bombs.[18] Standard international reference sources have listed Afghanistan as possessing Grad 122mm and Uragan 220mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these included versions with submunition payloads.[19]

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.”[20] In February 2011, an Afghan human rights group called on the US government and NATO to reveal if it they had stockpiled or used cluster munitions in Afghanistan since the 2002 conflict.[21] In 2011, 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.”[22] 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.”[23] For several years, ISAF has had a policy against using cluster munitions.[24]


[1] The Technical Committee consists of the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, National Directorate of Security, Department of Mine Clearance of the National Disaster Management Authority, the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA), and the Implementing Partners. Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Instersessional Meetings, Geneva, 7 April 2014.

[2] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Lusaka, 10 September 2013. See also Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form A, 30 August 2012.

[3] The joint committee working to prepare draft implementing legislation for both the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions is comprised of the Department of Mine Clearance for the government, MACCA, the Mine Dog Center, Afghan Landmine Survivors’ Organization (ALSO), and the ICRC. Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Third Meeting of States Parties, 13 September 2012. See also Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form A, 30 August 2012.

[4] Afghanistan’s initial Article 7 report is for calendar year 2011, while the May 2013 update covered calendar year 2012, and the April 2014 update was for calendar year 2013. The 2014 report is dated 27 April and Afghanistan informed the Monitor that it was submitted by the 30 April deadline, but not listed on the UN website until 18 June 2014. Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, 27 April 2014.

[5] 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.

[6] Two United States (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; however, 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.

[7] Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution A/RES/68/182, 18 December 2013. Afghanistan voted in favor of a similar resolution on 15 May 2013.

[8] 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.” The cable states that “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.

[10] Statement by Dr. Zia Nezam, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Meeting of States Parties, Beirut, 14 September 2011.

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

[13] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Fourth Meeting of States Parties, Lusaka, 10 September 2013.

[14] Statement of Afghanistan, UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 14 October 2013.

[15] Statement of Afghanistan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 8 April 2014. Notes by the CMC.

[17] Afghanistan’s initial Article 7 report detailed the destruction between 2005 and 2011 of over 402,000 submunitions of various types. Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, 30 August 2012. The subsequent Article 7 reports detail the destruction of 761 additional munitions and submunitions discovered in 2012 and 2013 and also provide an updated accounting of the various submunitions destroyed between 2005 and 2011, listing five types of munitions not included in the initial report. Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, Part II, 27 April 2014; Convention on Cluster Munitions Article 7 Report, Form B, 19 May 2013.

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

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

[20]Demarche to Afghanistan on cluster munitions,” US Department of State cable 08STATE134777 dated 29 December 2008, released by Wikileaks on 1 December 2010.

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

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

[23] Ibid.

[24] 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 not using 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.