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Is DU Being Used in Afghanistan?

If you take at face value the parliamentary response from Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence, the answer to the question would be ‘no’. He states “No British Forces currently engaged in operations around Afghanistan are armed with depleted uranium ammunition. However, we do not rule out the use of depleted uranium ammunition in Afghanistan, should its penetrative capability be judged necessary in the future”.

In later parliamentary responses he said that “Depleted uranium-based ammunition has not been used in current operations in Afghanistan. We are not aware of any plans for it to be used in future.” implying without directly stating that it is not being used by US forces either. Lewis Moonie MP of the MoD said that whether US forces are using DU is a matter for the US government.

Papers report DU in Afghanistan
However, there have been various reports in newspapers in Pakistan and elsewhere, claiming that DU is being used. DAWN quotes an unnamed ‘leading military expert’ who says DU shells have been rained down on Afghanistan. A better researched article in Weekly Independent (Pakistan) refers to a case of a mysterious illness in an Afghan child which led the doctor to believe they were a victim of chemical or radiation poisoning. As further evidence it offers a recent statement questioning the safety of the US troops in Afghanistan, where it claims the American Defense Department spokesperson Kenneth Bacon indirectly confirmed the use of nuclear waste, saying “We obviously put out instructions about avoiding Depleted Uranium dust. Our troops are instructed to wear masks if they’re around what they consider to be atomised or particle-sized DU”.
This is of course not hard evidence and we cannot use this to claim that DU is being used in Afghanistan, particularly when faced with denials from the government. However, we should not be put off so easily, as it is far from clear that there is no DU being used at all. Independent DU researcher Dai Williams has spent much time digging into the weapons specifications of the ‘bunker-buster’ bombs, and other new generation “hard target” smart bombs and cruise missiles used to attack Taliban bunkers, caves, command centres, fuel and ammunition stores.

Mystery ‘dense’ metal could be DU
His research dug up the facts that the 2 tonne GBU-37 Bunker Busters and 2000 lb GBU-24 Pave-way smart bombs, plus the Boeing AGM-86D, Maverick AGM-65G and AGM-145C hard target capability cruise missiles all use advanced unitary penetrators (AUP-113, AUP-116, P31) or BROACH warheads with the mystery high density metal in alloy casings. The mystery metal must be hard and at least 2x as heavy as steel. Tungsten and DU are the main options. Both are used by US and UK forces for armour piercing shells. DU is preferred because it is burns inside the target to become an incendiary bomb and is far cheaper and easier to manufacture. Dai wrote to his MP and received the following answer “The Ministry of Defence cannot confirm the specific composition of these types of munitions. However, there is a range of heavy metals that could be considered under that term including .... tungsten.... These types of metal are used in order to maintain the ground (or concrete) penetration capability of the munition, an option not suited to the softer DU metal. Therefore, DU would not be expected to be used for this capability. There are suggestions that DU might be used in small quantities to act as ballast in some munitions, however, we are unable to confirm whether or not this is the case at this time.”[our italics] But says Dai, Janes Defence website initially stated that “DU’s ductility is suitable for making penetrators...” (Feb 2001). The MoD answer above does not fully answer the questions as to which metal is being used both as penetrators and as ballast, and also as this would not be classed as DU ammunition (as it is not the DU shells we usually refer to, but possibly ballast, or a component of other weapons) it would not be covered by the parliamentary statement by Geoff Hoon, which rather carefully always refers to DU ammunition. The implications of this are clear, and we must demand more answers from the government. If use DU is confirmed, it merely adds to the hypocrisy of this so-called ‘war on terrorism’. Lets hope that Operation Enduring Freedom doesn’t become enduring misery for the Afghan people faced with the dangerous effects of DU. Dai Williams is an occupational psychologist and independent DU researcher. His information is mainly from web sources (listed below), in particular the Federation of American Scientists website . Unfortunately all the FAS links used in his analysis appear to have been “pulled” shortly after he began distributing his findings. The reference above to DU’s ductility from Jane’s Defence website has also now been changed. Dai said “The deletion of the FAS pages is a smart move by US security agencies. The credibility of my concerns about potential large scale use of DU in Afghanistan is much harder for the media and other DU researchers to verify now.”

The full report can be seen at
Dai can be contacted at

More detailed information is on the pandora project website:
Janes Defence: FAS links to guided missile and bomb specifications:

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From CADU News 9: Winter 2001/2002

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