Wired reveals yet another angle of the invaluable Wikileaks information dump:
Most of the reports catalog counterinsurgency’s basics — weapons caches found, gun battles fought, village elders chatted up. But buried in the tens of thousands of U.S. military logs dropped Sunday night by WikiLeaks are incidents that are anything but routine: a suspected chemical weapon attack by the Taliban; rumors of Al Qaeda poisoning the U.S. military food supply; a tip about Osama Bin Laden’s status.
WikiLeaks’ massive trove of field reports from Afghanistan documents many things. One is that the fog of war can lead troops down some awfully strange paths. Especially when RUMINT (mil-speak for “rumor intelligence”) becomes the guide.
Shortly after 10:30am on Valentine’s Day, 2009, a special operations unit was on a mine-clearing patrol when they were ambushed. Insurgents detonated a bomb, fired at the troops, and then fled. For five hours, the spec ops forces pursed. Finally, they called in air support. A pair of French Mirage fighter jets dropped a pair of guided bombs. The troops “engaged and destroyed” two insurgent spotters.
The commandos found a second improvised explosive, destroyed it, and continued north. They discovered a third bomb. And when they set it off, “a yellow cloud was emitted and personnel began feeling nauseous. FF [friendly forces] collected dust samples and returned to base. Currently conducting SSE [sensitive site exploitation] of clothing and equipment while awaiting decon [decontamination] teams to confirm or deny chemical attack. A total of 7x US MIL, 1x Interpreter and 1x K-9 dog reporting symptoms,” read the report from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. “Will inform if chemical attack is confirmed.”
Six hours later came a second report. “CJSOTF unit has returned to base for treatment and analysis. Initial Medical assessment is that none of the personnel are currently experiencing symptoms… CJSOTF surgeon assessed no need to MEDEVAC [medical evacuate] any personnel. The individuals have been placed on 24 hour stand down. SSE Team from KAF [Kandahar Air Field] will fly to FB Cobra on 15FEB09 to conduct testing for any residual chemicals or materials on personnel and equipment. The results of this testing will confirm or deny this event as a CBRN [chemical biological radiological nuclear] attack.”
There are no indications in the WikiLeaks database that this was confirmed as a chemical attack; I suspect it wasn’t. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen accounts fearing that al-Qaeda or the Taliban experimented with chemical weapons.