During the first several days of the Air Campaign, Czech and French units reported as many as seven detections of nerve and blister agents in portions of the Operation Desert Storm Theater. These reported detections took place between January 19 and January 24, 1991, in the vicinities of Hafar al Batin and King Khalid Military City (KKMC), Saudi Arabia. Both the Czech and the French reports noted concentrations of chemical agents far below levels determined to be life threatening or able to cause immediate injury to troops in the area. The majority of those incidents were reported to each nations respective chain of command, as well as to the Coalition headquarters at CENTCOM.
Czech units in the Gulf War reported four chemical agent detections. The Czech government, however, indicates that their troops had two chemical detections. A nerve agent detection that occurred near Hafar al Batin on January 19, 1991, and a report of discolored sand near KKMC on January 24, 1991. The United States cannot independently verify the Czech reports, however, the Department of Defense (DoD) is confident in the Czechs ability to detect the presence of chemical agents. In November 1993, the DoD assessed these two detections as valid and during testimony to the Presidential Advisory Committee in 1996, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) publicly stated that these detections were credible. This determination was based on an in-depth analysis by US technical experts of the Czechs technical competence and the reliability of the Czech equipment. Investigators have not found any additional evidence that would change DoDs and CIAs original assessment of detections.
The Czech government has not provided information about the remaining two reported detections. Investigators have relied on Gulf War-era logs and statements by personnel involved to gather information about these reported detections. The first of these reports involved a detection of Mustard vapor by a Czech unit near KKMC on January 19th. Although personnel involved reported the detection of Mustard agent by the CHP-71, a Czech chemical agent detector, they were unable to independently confirm the presence of Mustard using other detection protocols. Additionally, other confirmatory details, such as a more precise location of the detection, have not been discovered. Based on the lack of confirmatory tests and no obvious source for the chemical agents detected, as well as the fact that the Czech government has never indicated these detections occurred nor provided information about them, this detection has been assessed as "Indeterminate."
The second of the Czech detections, which was recorded in Gulf War logs but has not been acknowledged by the Czech government, occurred on January 20th. It involved a Czech unit, in direct support of the French, which detected the presence of Tabun and Sarin. An Intelligence Spot Report contained an entry reporting that on January 21st the French reported detecting Tabun, Sarin and Blister agents in their area. Although this report of the French detection does not specifically mention the presence of the Czechs, because the Czechs were reportedly in support of the French at the time of their detection, both of these reports are considered one incident. Other confirmatory details, such as a more precise location of the detection, were not provided in either log entry. Based on the lack of confirmatory tests and no obvious source for the chemical agents detected, as well as the fact that neither the French nor the Czech governments have ever indicated these detections occurred nor provided additional information about them, these detections have been assessed as "Indeterminate."
The government of France has not provided information about any of the four reported chemical detections attributed to the French forces during the Gulf War. In addition, the French have never provided specifics about their chemical detection equipment. Without this information, it is difficult to assess the chemical detection capabilities and the technical competence of the French forces. Using Gulf War-era logs, interviews with US personnel involved, and defense periodicals, investigators have pieced together what little is known about these incidents.
The first incident involving French forces occurred on January 19, 1991. This report involved a very low-level nerve agent detection in the vicinity of KKMC. The reports indicate that the French were called in and confirmed the presence of the chemical agents. The second French incident also occurred on January 19th, and involved a report in the 18 Corps net (XVIII Airborne) in which the French reported "gas/gas/gas." The third incident is described above in conjunction with the detection of Sarin and Tabun on January 20th. As discussed in the narrative, investigators believe all three of these French incidents as well as the Czech Sarin and Tabun detection on January 20th are reports of the same detections recorded through different channels. Due to the fact that the government of France has not acknowledged these detections and the Czech Republic has never mentioned confirming any French detections; as well as the lack of confirmatory information about these detections and the absence of a possible source, these detections are assessed as "Indeterminate."
The fourth French incident occurred between January 24-25, 1991. A US Senator who inquired into the possible causes of Gulf War illnesses was told that a low-level detection of nerve and blister agent occurred at a logistics facility outside of KKMC and was reported by a member of the French military. Despite an extensive effort, this investigation has not discovered any possible source for the chemical agents reportedly detected. Due to the overall lack of information about this reported detection, this incident is assessed as "Indeterminate."
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