A. Background on Iraq’s Chemical Weapons Program

During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Iraq developed the ability to produce, store, and use chemical weapons, including H-series blister and G-series nerve agents. Iraq built these agents into various offensive munitions including rockets, artillery shells, aerial bombs, and warheads of the Al Husayn Scud missile variant.[2] During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq’s fighter-attack aircraft dropped mustard- and tabun-filled 250-kilogram bombs and mustard-filled 500-kilogram bombs on Iranian targets. Other reports indicate Iraq also may have installed spray tanks on an unknown number of helicopters or dropped 55-gallon drums filled with unknown agents (probably mustard) from low altitudes.[3]

By the start of the Gulf War, the intelligence community had judged that Iraq used certain types of bunkers, including what analysts dubbed "S-shaped" and "12-frame" bunkers, to store chemical and biological warfare agents.[4,5] Because the An Nasiriyah Southwest (Figure 2) Ammunition Storage Point (An Nasiriyah SW ASP) contained one S-shaped and four 12-frame bunkers, the intelligence community suspected it might have been a chemical or biological weapons storage site.[6]

Figure 2. Selected Iraqi chemical warfare agent production and storage locations[7]

B. Background on Iraq’s Biological Weapons Program

In 1990, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) believed Iraq possessed two biological warfare agents, Bacillus anthracis and botulinum toxin, which cause the diseases anthrax and botulism, respectively. By 1991, US agencies had identified several of Iraq’s biological warfare agent-associated facilities.[8] Because it possessed four 12-frame bunkers, intelligence included the An Nasiriyah SW ASP among these facilities.[9]

C. An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point Description

Built in the late 1970s, the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point is located southwest of the city of An Nasiriyah and east of Tallil Air Base (Figure 3).[10] Many of An Nasiriyah’s storage buildings were partially-buried, reinforced concrete bunkers. Others were above-ground structures built of brick and tin. The An Nasiriyah SW ASP (Figure 3) included both above-ground storage buildings and specialized munitions storage bunkers in two separate, fenced areas. The western section, primarily used to store army munitions, contained four 12-frame bunkers. The eastern section, primarily used to store air force munitions, contained one S-shaped bunker.[11] Aerial munitions stored at this ammunition storage point supported Tallil Air Base and its fighter-attack aircraft.

Figure 3. An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point

Although Iraq and the US intelligence community called this site "An Nasiriyah SW ASP," US ground troops typically referred to it as Tallil, Tallil’s ASP, or Tallil’s bunkers, due to its geographic proximity to Tallil Air Base—at their closest point, their perimeter security fences are only 1 kilometer apart—and the fact Iraq stored aircraft munitions for Tallil’s fighter-attack aircraft in An Nasiriyah’s bunkers, storage buildings, and open air revetments (Figure 3). The Iraq city of An Nasiriyah, after which the storage point is formally named, is located much further to the northeast, approximately 10-15 kilometers away (Figure 2). Most of this city is located on the northern side of the Euphrates River and, unlike Tallil Air Base, is not directly associated with the ASP.

D. Desert Shield and Desert Storm

During Desert Shield, US intelligence carefully monitored the An Nasiriyah SW ASP and other Iraqi facilities suspected of storing chemical or biological warfare agents. During the Gulf War air campaign from January 17 to February 28, 1991, Iraq’s entire chemical and biological warfare agent research, production, and storage facilities were high-priority targets. An Nasiriyah SW ASP was one of the targeted sites, and Coalition air strikes destroyed two ammunition storage bunkers there on January 17, 1991. By the cease-fire on February 28, 1991, aerial attacks had destroyed approximately 22 of An Nasiriyah’s ammunition storage bunkers.[12]

E. The Cease-Fire and Occupation of the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point

After the cease-fire went into effect, 82nd Airborne Division units convinced Iraq’s soldiers still occupying Tallil Air Base and the nearby An Nasiriyah SW ASP to vacate the area to the northwest or surrender without resistance. On March 2, 1991, 82nd Airborne Division units (Figure 4) took control of the air base and nearby storage point without major incident. 82nd Airborne units, including the 504th and 505th Parachute Infantry Regiments and other subordinate units, occupied both Tallil Air Base and the ASP and started the long process of identifying munitions and other materiel to be destroyed. While many small infantry units performed impromptu demolition of fighting trenches, personnel bunkers, arms caches, and vehicles, C Company, 307th Engineer Battalion, with the technical advice and support of the 60th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Detachment, systematically destroyed most of the large quantities of munitions and major facilities.[13,14] On March 24, 1991, the 82nd Airborne Division units rotated out of the area; the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), the 82nd Engineer Battalion, and 146th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment replaced them.[15] (See Figure 5.)

Figure 4. 82nd Airborn Division organization

Figure 5. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment organization

In earlier air strikes, precision-guided munitions had already hit many An Nasiriyah SW ASP munitions bunkers. These attacks destroyed the facilities and their contents, scattering unexploded ordnance and debris for considerable distances.[16] Because of the extensively scattered ordnance, one of the highest priorities of local US commanders was to identify hazardous areas. Potential chemical weapons sites and unexploded ordnance were of primary concern. During their occupation, Chemical Corps specialists from the 82nd Airborne Division searched for chemical weapons with a full range of chemical agent detection equipment, including two Fox nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicles,[17] while the 60th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment identified and started the long process of destroying Iraq’s intact ordnance.[18]

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