Army IG completes Khamisiyah inquiry

Washington, January 26, 1998 (GulfLINK) - On November 17, 1997, the Department of Defense released the Army Inspector General report on the inquiry into the destruction of weapons in and around Khamisiyah, Iraq in March 1991. The inquiry focused on the question of whether chemical munitions were detected when ammunitions were destroyed at the site, whether the presence was reported, and if so, to what level, and whether appropriate force protection measures were taken. The report describes the methodology used by the Department of the Army Inspector General, outlines the chronology of events investigated, discusses findings related to ten relevant issues and makes recommendations.

"There was no credible, empirical evidence at the time of the demolition operation at the Khamisiyah Ammunitions Storage Facility in March 1991 that chemical munitions or agents were present ... the unit leadership left Khamisiyah believing that the 2-10 March 1991 operation had destroyed only conventional munitions," the report said.

Further, the report explains that the "unit leadership concluded there were no chemical weapons found or destroyed at Khamisiyah and that no chemical agents had been detected. Therefore, no report of a chemical nature was made or required."

There is every reason to believe that, had chemical munitions been discovered, such discovery would have been immediately reported through established channels to the highest levels of the theater command, the report states.

The completed inquiry offered seven recommendations:

* Improve the flow of intelligence information available from external agencies into the operational arena at Army and corps level through enhanced horizontal interface

* Incorporate the issue of detector sensitivity and false alarms into routine training scenarios at the Combat Training Centers

* Improve detector capability to discriminate and eliminate false alarms

* Develop and procure a non-destructive, hand-held detector for chemical filled munitions and field it down to Division level, minimum

* Improve stress training at the chemical and explosive ordnance schools on recognition of chemical munitions by methods other than external marking

* Clarify the relationship and command responsibility between engineer commanders and explosive ordnance disposal soldiers on large scale munitions destruction missions

* Improve the system of Army records maintenance, storage, and retrieval regarding war and contingency operations.

When former Deputy Secretary of Defense John White tasked the Army inspector general on September 25, 1996, to conduct the independent inquiry, a team of four detailed inspector general officers was organized to implement a five-phase action plan. Initial phases of the plan involved an intensive search for messages and communications data, and other historical documents that pertained to the issues surrounding the destruction of the Khamisiyah facility. During this phase, the team gathered and reviewed more than 2,000 pages of documents and support materials, including orders, reports, photographs, video tapes, and operational logs of appropriate U.S. Central Command units and coordinated with agency representatives such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Gulf War declassification project and the Army Material Command. The team was also briefed by the Chemical and Biological Defense Command staff on the numerous chemical protection and detection devices used by major commands during the Gulf War.

The most detailed portion of the inquiry involved comprehensive interviews with approximately 700 soldiers, veterans, and civilians, many of whom participated in the Khamisiyah operation or other operations of a similar nature. The team also spoke with various commanders, chemical officers and intelligence officers ranging from company level to the highest headquarters in the Kuwait theater of operations to determine the facts as to the weapons destroyed, the personnel who participated in the destruction and the potential exposure of personnel. The team made formal visits to 12 major installations, including some in Korea, Germany, Hawaii and Japan, to secure more than 300 photographs and official documents for the investigation.

Once information was gathered and consolidated, it was coordinated between various agencies to verify information and to ensure a full understanding of the operational and intelligence aspects relating to the Khamisiyah incident.

To reach its findings, the team established a chronology of significant events relevant to the Khamisiyah demolition operation. Based on the team's analysis and their coordination and interaction with various other agencies, the inspector general concluded that units involved in the destruction of the Khamisiyah ammunition storage facility, the 37th Engineer Battalion and A Company, 307th Engineer Battalion, were well-led and well-trained.

The report states that "units involved in the Khamisiyah destruction took force protection measures generally appropriate for the mission and situation." However, the report noted that the units' previous experience with numerous M8 false alarms throughout the theater contributed to a failure to enforce uniform standards across all units involved in the operation. This was evidenced by the fact that, despite their training, not all soldiers adhered to the unit standard direction to go to mission oriented protective posture - Mopp level four - when the chemical alarms sounded on March 4, 1991.

The report concludes that "there is no credible evidence that an event similar to Khamisyah occurred elsewhere in the Kuwaiti theater of Operations."