The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question: “What have the Americans done with all that waste?” The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title: “Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies.”
In reality, the American military did not have to pollute. It chose to be sloppy and reckless and to ignore environmental standards. The American military hazardous wastes that are believed to have entered the air, soil, groundwater and surface water of Afghanistan did so through the following methods (this list is partial only):
Burying/landfilling of the waste and ash
Leaking storage tanks, sumps and basins
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside (Part 1 of 3). America plans to withdraw its troops but leave behind a toxic mess. Mathew Nasuti, Kabul Press, 25 April 2010.
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American Military Burn Pits Pollute Afghan Countryside (Part 2 of 3). American military incinerators may not be safe for Afghanistan. Mathew Nasuti, Kabul Press, 2 May 2010.
EXCLUSIVE REPORT: American Military Burn Pits Pose Risk to Future Generations of Afghans (Part 3 of 3). More than 350 toxic sites need to be studied. Mathew Nasuti, Kabul Press, 4 May 2010.
AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ. DOD Should Improve Adherence to Its Guidance on Open Pit Burning and Solid Waste Management. United States Government Accountability Office, October 2010. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1163.pdf
Promoting the Dialogue: Climate Change and U.S. Ground Forces. Christine Parthemore, April 2010. http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/Promoting_Dialogue_ClimateChange&GroundForces_Parthemore_April2010_code408_workingpaper.pdf
Student Researchers: Joan Pedro, Luis Luján
Faculty Evaluator: Dra. Ana I. Segovia, Universidad Complutense de Madrid