International Handbook on Chemical Weapons Proliferation

By Gordon M. Burck; Charles C. Flowerree | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
South Asia

AFGHANISTAN

The primary CW allegation against the government of Afghanistan is of complicity in allowing the USSR to stock and use CW agents against domestic opponents. It is highly doubtful that Afghanistan has any assimilated capability for offensive CW.

In the case of Afghanistan, as for Southeast Asia, a key distinction is that between CW stocks controlled and perhaps used by the national government and stocks controlled by the occupying or collaborating state. Variations in the press survey ratings of Afghanistan may reflect confusion about control, beyond the more basic question of the existence of CW munitions in the country.1 None rated Afghanistan as a likely possessor. The two comprehensive surveys both rate Afghanistan as "doubtful"; Julian Perry Robinson rated it in category III out of four.

One must also distinguish between the standard lethal CW agents and (1) toxins like those involved in the yellow rain allegations (as discussed in the Vietnam review); (2) non-CW chemicals; and (3) incapacitants and riot-control agents. This issue arises in connection with the allegations against the mujaheddin as well as with those against the government.

Details given with some allegations or in follow-up reports point to misinformation or misidentification of other warfare chemicals. Such cases cast doubt on others that make similar claims but lack detail. If one report claims nerve gas use but names an herbicide as the agent, it casts doubt on less detailed reports about nerve gas; if a case of burned flesh from an "unknown" agent turns out to have been caused by napalm, similar cases must be treated with skepticism.

Identification of agents is further complicated in Afghanistan by the attribution

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