The United States military spent millions of dollars on garbage incinerators in Afghanistan that went unused as tons of trash burned in open piles, wafting toxic smoke over thousands of troops, according to a report released Tuesday by an American watchdog agency.
The new report focused on Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan but echoed the findings of three previous reports by the agency, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, since April 2013. All found that the Defense Department wasted millions of dollars on incinerators at major bases that operated at a fraction of capacity — if at all — while the open burning of toxic material continued.
The reports also concluded that the military in Afghanistan violated regulations put in place by Congress and the Pentagon to end large-scale open-pit trash burning after the health risks of the practice gained national attention during the war in Iraq.
Despite these regulations, every base in Afghanistan visited by inspectors continued to burn waste, including tires, plastics, batteries and other potentially toxic junk, in open pits, sometimes shunting the smoky job off to Afghan troops. And though a 2010 law requires the military to notify Congress whenever certain toxic materials are burned, the report said no notifications were sent.
“There was a lack of planning and a lack of holding people accountable and as a result the health of our troops was put at risk,” John F. Sopko,...
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