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Current Issues - Depleted Uranium Weapons in Afghanistan

(last updated 22 July 2009)

 

German Bundeswehr manual challenges US and UK denials over depleted uranium use in Afghanistan

A military manual that was handed over to German campaigners has reignited allegations that the US used DU ammunition in Afghanistan. If true, it runs counter to repeated assurances given by the US military that no DU was used. The manual, a war-fighting guide for Bundeswehrcontigents in Afghanistan is marked classified and for official NATO use only. It was written by the Bundeswehr's Centre for Communication and published in late 2005.
"During the operation ''Enduring Freedom'' in support of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban-Regime, US-aircraft used, amongst others, armour-piercing incendiary munitions with a DU-core."
Zentrum für Nachrichtenwesen der Bundeswehr: Leitfaden für Bundeswehrkontingente in Afghanistan, Stand: 11/2005, p. 1-11 (translated from German)
(ICBUW July 21, 2009)

 

Natural uranium found in drinking water and in urine of civilians in Eastern Afghanistan

The urine of eight civilians, along with 8 drinking water and 18 soil samples was tested for the contents and isotopic composition of uranium. The uranium concentrations in urine were in the range of 89 - 478 ng/L, with an average of 275 ng/L. The concentrations in drinking water were in the range of 2.2 - 56.4 g/L, with an average of 23.8 g/L. The isotopic composition of all samples was that of natural uranium.

Durakovic, Asaf: The quantitative analysis of uranium isotopes in the urine of the civilian population of eastern Afghanistan after operation Enduring Freedom, in: Military Medicine Vol. 170 (2005), No. 4 (April), p. 277-284

The average uranium concentration of 23.8 g/L found in the drinking water samples is higher than the current WHO guideline value of 15 g/L, but still below the U.S. EPA drinking water standard of 30 g/L. According to the ICRP biokinetic model for uranium, continuous consumption of this drinking water would result in uranium concentrations in urine in the range of 47 - 470 ng/L, for an GI absorption factor f1 in the range of 0.002 - 0.02. The observed uranium concentrations in the urine samples fit very well into this expected range and can therefore be attributed to drinking water consumption. Given the comparatively high drinking water concentrations, it is not possible to sort out the contribution from any suspected dust inhalation.

 

U.S. DOD: no uranium contained in guided bombs and cruise missiles used in Iraq and Afghanistan

> View details

 

No elevated levels of uranium in urine of Australian servicemen returned from Afghanistan and Iraq

> View details

 

Depleted uranium munitions use in Afghanistan unclear

> See compilation by Dan Fahey (last updated July 5, 2003)

 

Council of European Union: No DU was used in Afghanistan

On April 9, 2002, Spanish Minister of Defence (and President-in-Office of the Council of the European Union) Federicio Trillo-Figueroa stated in an answer to a question by MEP Paul Lannoye (Greens) that no depleted uranium was used in Afghanistan.
> Download Verbatim Report of Proceedings, April 9, 2002 external link (European Parliament)
> View statement by Federicio Trillo-Figueroa external link

 

Depleted uranium warheads found in Afghanistan

U.S. DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers, January 16, 2002 external link:
"[...]
Q: Mr. Secretary, does the U.S. have any information that al Qaeda has or was producing weapons of mass destruction? And can you expand on the search of those facilities in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: The number of facilities keeps going up that are targeted, and it's now somewhere in the low 50s. And somewhere in the low 40s have already been accessed, but the test results from materials and information that came out of them has not all been produced back. So we're at varying stages. There's still a few yet to explore, a handful, and there's still some information to come back.

The short answer is, to my knowledge, we have found a number of things that show an appetite for weapons of mass destruction -- diagrams, materials, reports that things were asked for, things were discussed at meetings, that type of thing. In terms of having hard evidence of actual possession of weapons of mass destruction, we have -- I do not have that at this stage, except to say that I think I've mentioned that in one case there was a high radioactivity count and it looks as though that was probably the result of depleted uranium on some warheads. [...]" (emphasis added)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Roundtable with Radio Media, Jan. 15, 2002 external link:
"[...]
Q: And you mentioned the weapons of mass destruction, that intelligence had found any, what's new on that?

Rumsfeld: Not much new. We still haven't finished the number of identified possible sites, nor have we gotten the reports back on the analysis in all of the places. As I say, an awful lot of it involved drugs, and in some cases where there was radioactivity at least it preliminarily looks as thought it might have been depleted uranium warheads as opposed to something that could be considered a radiation weapon as such.

Q: The significance of that would be?

Rumsfeld: And the significance of that is really nothing. People have used depleted uranium warheads because of their penetration characteristics for years, and at least at the moment one of the locations where radiation was detected that turned out to be the case. [...]" (emphasis added)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Interview with Tom Bowman, Baltimore Sun, December 27, 2001 external link:
"[...]
Bowman: Any evidence yet of any chem/bio or nuclear material outside of just information, [paper] information?

Rumsfeld: We think there're about 48 sites, and I think we've worried our way through about 37 of them.

Bowman: Any evidence at all of chem/bio weapons? Outside of --

Rumsfeld: There was a report on radiation in one. It turned out to be depleted uranium warheads.

Bowman: You found depleted uranium warheads in the location?

Rumsfeld: In a location.

Bowman: But that was the only thing?

Rumsfeld: That is what led to, one of the things that led to the flurry about the possibility of radiation or nuclear capabilities in one of those sites. It was reported in the press about it. We checked it out, and at least with respect to that one site, it turned out to be depleted uranium.

Bowman: Small arms or warheads or --

Rumsfeld: Typical, I suppose, artillery. [...]" (emphasis added)

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