Afghanistan: US dropped food packets the same colour as cluster bombs

The Unites States Military air-dropped food packets in Afghanistan with yellow packaging, the same colour as cluster bombs that litter open fields near civilian areas. This confusion caused turmoil for the starving local population.

A report by Major Russell O. Davis of the US Air Force, that was distributed as part of the Wikileaks ‘Cablegate’ release, admits that humanitarian charities such as Oxfam informed them of the risk posed by the similarities between Humanitarian Daily Rations (HDRs) and BRU cluster bombs, forcing them to share ‘messages in Persian and Pashto warning Afghans’ to avoid confusion.

The US dropped CBU-87 cluster bombs on open areas in Afghanistan in various missions over the course of the war, according to Human Rights Watch. Each CBU-87 contains 202 individual submunitions, commonly referred to as ‘bomblets’, which have a 7% failure-to-explode rate, and are dispersed over a wide area that cannot be controlled.

The ‘bomblets’ were painted a similar shade of yellow as packets of humanitarian food aid. Both of which were dropped on open fields, leading to a huge risk for Afghani civilians who were ‘used to running to yellow’, said General Richard Meyers, chairman of US Military Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The US began distributing HDRs across Afghanistan in response to the Taliban’s successful ‘hearts and minds’ campaign that had won support of a significant number of Afghan civilians. Insurgents managed to fill a vacuum with local Pashtuns feeling abandoned by the government in providing security and providing employment via their control of opium production.

Naturally, dispersing basic provisions that imitate explosives did little to win back support of the locals, and the Taliban still command the vast majority of Afghan territory outside of the control of government.

The United States is not treaty to the Convention on Cluster Munitions that was signed by over 100 states. In addition to this, after intense US lobbying efforts, a provision was included in the treaty that allows signatory nations to cooperate militarily with non-signatory nations. This loophole even allows the US to store cluster munitions on the territory of signatory nations, and they took advantage of this by stockpiling the illicit weapons on British soil without the knowledge of the UK Parliament.

In just the first year of the War in Afghanistan the US dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets. The US does not account for whether each bomblet exploded or remains active, and many unexploded sub-munitions lie in close proximity to civilian villages and towns.

There is currently no US military effort underway to clear Afghanistan of dormant cluster bombs:

Page 55 of the report references the similar colours of cluster bombs and food rations:

Wikileaks Decrypted | War in Afghanistan | Cablegate