The Pentagon announced Thursday that it would indefinitely delay a ban on the use of cluster bombs, which was scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2019. The reason for the delay was due primarily to the fact that safety improvements in munitions technology failed to advance enough to replace older stockpiles. Cluster bombs can either be dropped by aircraft or fired via artillery shell. But not all of them explode and since they are difficult to locate, they were deemed too much of a hazard to surrounding civilian populations, leading to civilian deaths long after conflicts end. The Pentagon is hoping at some point to transition to cluster bombs that explode 99 percent of the time, which greatly reduces the risks of having them around to harm civilians after conflicts are over. “But with just over one year to go before the ban’s slated implementation, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters that safety technology had not progressed enough to replace existing stockpiles with safer weaponry. ‘Although the Department seeks to field a new generation of more highly reliable munitions, we cannot risk mission failure or accept the potential of increased military and civilian casualties by forfeiting the best available capabilities,’ the Pentagon memo says. The memo, which was expected to be signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Thursday, called cluster munitions “legitimate weapons with clear military utility.” [source]
Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.