VI. LESSONS LEARNED
We have made several key observations during the three-year investigation into US demolition operations at Khamisiyah. We drew these observations from thoroughly reviewing thousands of pages of Gulf War documents and interviews with demolition participants, policy makers, and commanders at all levels. These observations supplement the lessons learned published by the Director of Central Intelligences Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force in the areas of intelligence-military cooperation and communication, analytical methodology and resources, and information management. Additionally, these observations are intended to highlight Gulf War activities that DoD should ensure are properly addressed. These observations represent solely our own opinions and positions.
A. Limited Resources for Assigned Mission
At the time of the cease-fire, the Coalition ground campaign had proceeded at an unprecedented rate, without Iraq using chemical weapons and with relatively few Coalition forces combat deaths. USCENTCOM assigned both VII Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps the missions to establish security in their respective operating areas and quickly destroy as much enemy equipment and munitions as possible. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) detachments had the specific tasks of identifying and destroying munitions in the theater of operations. Unfortunately, the task of destroying the vast quantities of munitions and equipment captured during Desert Storm was too large for the small number of EOD personnel in the KTO in the time available, and therefore fell to those not fully technically equipped for the taskcombat engineers, combat soldiers and support personnel. The limited time available in which to conduct the demolition operations and the shortages of explosives, such as C4, among units further complicated the demolition tasks. Consequently, some units handled or destroyed munitions using procedures that created additional hazards and even loss of life, such as occurred at As Salman. At many locations, engineers destroyed bunkers full of munitions, conducted hurried inventories and used improper amounts of explosives, resulting in flyouts or ejection of partially destroyed munitions which created unsafe conditions for everyone. Safe removal of ordnance from the battlefield requires technical expertise, time, and proper explosives, and should remain an EOD function. However, the EOD specialist community would require additional resources to conduct munitions destruction operations on a scale similar to those in the post-cease-fire KTO. The Army should review manpower requirements for future likely scenarios involving EOD. Combat engineer officer basic and NCO training should include enhanced EOD training to provide a supplemental force with the requisite technical expertise to assist the EOD in similar situations.
B. Reporting on Iraqi Chemical Warfare Agent Munitions Markings
During the Gulf War, intelligence staffs at all echelons received many reports of Iraqs chemical warfare agent munitions markings. Command and operations staffs included information from some of these intelligence reports in their messages, which were widely distributed among US forces in the Gulf.
Since the Gulf War, the Army Declassification Office received and declassified most of these command and operational messages. The operational and command messages about Iraqs chemical warfare munitions markings accurately reflect similar messages sent within intelligence channels. All these messages contained contradictory descriptions of how Iraq marked chemical warfare agent munitions:
The existence of contradictory information on a single topic is an inherent part of intelligence collection. It does not reflect poorly on intelligence collection operations. However, recognizingand calling attention tothe existence of such contradictory information is the responsibility of intelligence analysis. After searching thousands of intelligence documents, we found none that informed staffs of the existence of contradictory information on Iraqs chemical munitions markings. Some people may see this as calling undue attention to an information gap. However, identifying the existence of such a gap would have helped planners recognize the danger of destroying Iraqs munitions in the absence of definitive munitions recognition data. Intelligence analysts need to seek out and call attention to information gaps. Ultimately, it is the commander's responsibility to ensure his or her command has accurate, timely intelligence to accomplish the mission. It is the intelligence staff officer that must provide that accurate, timely intelligence.
C. Monitoring and Analyzing Post-War Events
At the conclusion of the Gulf War, the UN created UNSCOM to identify and destroy Iraqs chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. UNSCOM obtained Iraqs weapons declarations and inspected nuclear, biological, and chemical production facilities. In October 1999, the United Nations discontinued UNSCOM inspections and weapons destruction missions.
Sections III E through H of this narrative and the CIAs, "Khamisiyah: A Historical Perspective on Related Intelligence" (posted on GulfLINK on April 9, 1997), recount in detail the events that led to the discovery of chemical weapons destruction at Khamisiyah. Analysis of historical documents indicates that DoD received and retransmitted messages containing details of UNSCOM inspections to USCENTCOM and other unified and specified commands. DoD, USCENTCOM, and the State Department did not recognize the significance of UNSCOMs discovery of chemical munitions destruction at Khamisiyah. DoD, in conjunction with the Intelligence Community and State Department, should monitor events in US-occupied areas during deployments and after redeployments to prevent another incident like Khamisiyah.
D. Chemical Weapon and Chemical Warfare Agent Detection Equipment
In the Gulf War, soldiers training included identifying potential chemical weapons by their distinctive markings or physical characteristics. Not only was the information on markings confusing and misleading, but also the issued chemical warfare agent detection equipment had technical limitations that restricted their use. Design of the chemical warfare agent detection equipment, such as the Chemical Agent Monitor (CAM) used to detect vapors, required a leaking munition before a detection could occur. Although many groupscombat units, support personnel, engineer units, EOD detachmentshad roles in destroying various sized munitions caches, CAM availability among those groups was limited by the total number of CAMs in the theater and the various types of units destroying munitions. Many of those units simply were not issued a CAM. Approximately 1,300 CAMs were deployed in the theater, not enough to support unit requirements down to the company level. US EOD personnel were well trained and had the best chemical warfare agent detection equipment at that time. However, US forces did not have chemical warfare agent detection equipment that could distinguish intact chemical warfare agent-filled munitions. Properly employed, chemical warfare agent detection equipment possibly can prevent the accidental destruction of munitions containing chemical warfare agents. DoD should field state-of-the-art chemical warfare agent detection equipment for its forces.
This case is still being investigated. As additional information becomes available, it will be incorporated. If you have records, photographs, recollections, or find errors in the details reported, please contact my office at 1-800-497-6261.
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