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Karshi-Khanabad: Hazardous Exposures and Effects on U.S. Servicemembers

Meeting Status: 
Rescheduled
Date: 
Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 12:30pm
Location: 
2247 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
Karshi-Khanabad: Hazardous Exposures and Effects on U.S. Servicemembers

CHAIRMAN LYNCH'S OPENING STATEMENT

BACKGROUND

  • Shortly after September 11, 2001, U.S. forces were deployed to K2—a former Soviet base—because of its close proximity to al Qaeda and Taliban targets in northern Afghanistan.
  • According to a December 19, 2019 McClatchy report, U.S. forces at K2 were exposed to multiple chemical and radiological hazards, such as “pond water that glowed green” and “black goo oozing from the ground.”  These hazards reportedly were caused by a prior explosion at a missile storage facility; as well as fuel, solvents, and other chemicals from abandoned Soviet maintenance facilities.
  • In a 2015 study cited by McClatchy, the U.S. Army found that veterans deployed to K2 were more than five times as likely to develop a type of cancer—malignant neoplasms of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue—than their counterparts who deployed to South Korea.  The same study found that more than 60 veterans who deployed to K2 between 2001 and 2005 “had been diagnosed with cancer or died from the disease.”
  • The VA has not acknowledged a causal relationship between deployment to K2 and a subsequent cancer diagnosis.  According to one retired special forces officer:  “After returning from combat years later, we are all coming down with various forms of cancer that the [Department of Veterans Affairs] is refusing to acknowledge.”  A retired U.S. Air Force veteran stated that this treatment felt like a betrayal and that “nobody wants to help with it.”

WITNESSES

Mrs. Kim E. Brooks
Spouse of Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Brooks
U.S. Army

Mr. Scott W. Welsch
K2 Veteran
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2
U.S. Army

Mr. Paul B. Widener Jr.
K2 Veteran
Retired Master Sergeant
U.S. Air Force

116th Congress