We investigated the possible presence of chemical warfare agents at Tallil Air Base, a major tactical air base in southeastern Iraq that was a suspected chemical warfare munitions storage site. This narrative was initially published on October 30, 1997. Since that time, the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses has not received any new information on the material presented, nor have any additional leads developed to change the narratives assessments. Additionally, the Presidential Special Oversight Board reviewed the narrative and recommended that the Office of the Special Assistant republish it as final. For this reason, this is a final report.
During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, fighter-attack aircraft from this base used chemical warfare munitions against Iranian targets. The intelligence community thought S-shaped bunkers were among the types of facilities Iraq used to store chemical and biological warfare weapons. Therefore, during the air campaign, Coalition planners prioritized targeting for this type bunker believed to be supporting Iraqs national chemical warfare programs. In early February 1991, a 2,000-pound bomb struck the S-shaped bunker at Tallil, seriously damaging it and partially collapsing the ceiling. After Desert Storm's cease-fire, 82nd Airborne Division units occupied Tallil. Before they withdrew from Iraq, US forces destroyed the remaining facilities, equipment, and munitions that had survived Desert Storms air and ground phases at Tallil and the surrounding area.
During the US occupation, chemical warfare specialists using specialized chemical detection equipment, including XM93 nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance (Fox) vehicles and explosive ordnance disposal technicians searched Tallil for chemical warfare agents and munitions. The investigators interviews with these soldiers and combat engineers who did much of the hands-on demolition work and comprehensive review of available information, including intelligence community sources, did not produce evidence that chemical warfare agents or weapons were present at Tallil during the US occupation. The extensive chemical warfare specialists and explosive ordnance disposal technicians searches did find defensive equipment associated with chemical warfare (e.g., masks, suits, antidotes, and decontaminants.) Due to pre-war briefings that Iraq marked its chemical warfare munitions with colored bands, some soldiers believed that they had discovered, reported, or destroyed some of Iraqs chemical warfare munitions. Post-war assessments of Iraqs chemical warfare program have determined that this identification method was totally unreliable. However, explosive ordnance disposal technicians said that they relied on specific munitions design characteristics to identify chemical warfare-capable munitions.
Iraq did not declare Tallil Air Base as a chemical weapons storage site under United Nations Resolution 687, which required Iraq to declare all weapons of mass destruction and their research, testing, production, and storage facilities for verification, monitoring, and demolition purposes. The United Nations Special Commission did not find evidence that Iraq moved chemical weapons to Tallil before or during the Gulf War, and the United Nations Special Commission team that inspected Tallil and its S-shaped bunker in December 1992 did not find evidence of chemical weapons or bulk storage of chemical warfare agents. However, it is important to note that neither the US occupation forces nor the United Nations Special Commission team was able to inspect the portion of the S-shaped bunker where the ceiling had collapsed or examine any materials buried under the remaining debris. Had Iraq stored chemical weapons or agents in this facility when it was struck during the war, the resulting contamination almost certainly would have required Iraq to completely remove all bunker debris, extensively decontaminate the area, and then rebuild before using it for conventional storage. However, after the war, Iraq cleared the rubble from the bunkers intact area and used it to store conventional munitions. Given these facts, combined with the lack of any US reports of chemical warfare agent detections or injuries, we find it unlikely that chemical weapons or chemical warfare agents were present at Tallil Air Base during the period of US occupation from March 2-April 7, 1991.
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