Learn more about the problem with cluster munitions and the U.S.'s role

Cluster munitions pose an immediate threat to civilians during conflict by randomly scattering submunitions or bomblets over an area the size of a football field and continue to pose a threat post-conflict by leaving remnants, including submunitions, which fail to explode upon impact, becoming de facto landmines. 

Use

The United States has used cluster munitions with devastating consequences in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam) in the 1960s and 1970s, the Persian Gulf (Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) in 1991, the former Yugoslavia (now Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo) in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, Iraq in 2003, and--most recently--Yemen in December 2009. US-supplied cluster munitions have been used in combat by Israel in Lebanon and Syria, by Morocco in the Western Sahara, by the UK and the Netherlands in the former Yugoslavia, and by the UK in Iraq.

Production & Transfer

The United States produces and exports cluster munitions. 

While the historical record is incomplete, the US has in the past transferred hundreds of thousands of cluster munitions to at least 30 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE, and the UK. 

The US now can only export cluster munitions that leave behind less than 1% unexploded submunitions, while the receiving country must agree that cluster munitions “will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present." According to the US agency that administers weapons transfers, “the only cluster munition with a compliant submunition (one that does not result in more than 1% UXO across the range of intended operational environments)" is the CBU-97B/CBU-105 sensor fuzed weapon. 

In recent years, CBU-105 sensor fuzed weapons have been sold to India (510 announced in 2008), Saudi Arabia (404 announced in 2011), Taiwan (64 CBU-105 announced in 2011), and South Korea (367 CBU-105 announced in 2012).

Stockpiling

The U.S. has a stockpile of cluster munitions containing about 1 billion submunitions.

According to US Department of State cables released by Wikileaks, the US has stockpiled and may continue to be storing cluster munitions in a number of countries, including Convention on Cluster Munitions States Parties Afghanistan, Germany, Italy,  Japan and Spain, as well as in non-signatories Israel, Qatar, and perhaps Kuwait. The U.S. removed its stockpiled cluster munitions from Norway in 2010, while the UK announced in 2010 that there were now “no foreign stockpiles of cluster munitions in the UK or on any UK territory” indicated U.S. stocks had also been removed.

Ban policy

The U.S. did not directly participate, not even as an observer, in the diplomatic Oslo Process in 2007 and 2008 that resulted in the May 2008 adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but more than 400 U.S. Department of State cables made public by Wikileaks in 2009-2011 show how the U.S. attempted to influence its allies, partners, and other states during the Oslo Process to affect the outcome of the negotiations, especially with respect to the issue of “interoperability” (joint military operations between the US and States Parties to the convention).

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