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U.S. Leaving Toxic Time-Bombs Across Afghanistan

Monday 14 October 2013, by Matthew J. Nasuti (Former U.S. Air Force Captain)

The U.S. Government waged chemical warfare in Afghanistan. It did not do so with sarin gas or mustard gas, but with solvents, toxic metals, hazardous liquids, corrosive materials, infectious hospital waste and radioactive debris from scrap military equipment. Millions of gallons and millions of tons of each were transported into Afghanistan and used, with the spent remains being burned, buried and abandoned in hundreds of outposts, air bases and forward operating bases across Afghanistan. The Kabul Press and other have written for years about the toxic burn pits operated by the U.S. military, the illegal landfills and the other environmentally damaging practices that resulted from more than a decade of U.S. and NATO military operations

This past week U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Afghanistan seeking to pressure the Karzai Government into signing a long-term agreement that would keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014. To date, neither side has apparently discussed any of the toxic time-bombs that the U.S. is planning to leave behind. No one is publicly addressing the billions of dollars that Afghanistan will need to clean up the hazardous mess that the Pentagon and State Department plan to leave behind. No one is mentioning the precious groundwater that has been poisoned and will continue to be poisoned for decades. There are no apparent negotiations about environmental restoration efforts, including the replanting of thousands of trees that the U.S. has cut down in its hunt for rebel forces. The countryside remains scarred from decades of warfare.

The fact is that the United States would not be abandoning a battlefield in Europe with such careless disregard. As the Kabul Press previously reported, the Canadian Government required the Pentagon to dig up and take home all the hazardous waste the U.S. buried at its old DEW Line radar posts in Northern Canada. The Karzai Government should be insisting on no less. The Afghan people deserve better from their Government. It should be fighting for their health, their safety and for future generations of Afghan children. The Karzai Government is the steward of the country and owes an obligation to hand over to its successor an unpolluted nation, or at least a nation on the mend. The next time the U.S. decides to “save” another country, that county may say “no thanks” as the long-term environmental price for irresponsible U.S. military operations may be unacceptably high.

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