U.S. troops in Afghanistan burned waste in hazardous open pits — against Pentagon regulations — while safer (but defective) incinerators sat idle.
Bobby Elesky, who worked as a civilian Defense Department contractor at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan from January 2004 until February 2005, recalls the smelly, smoky burn pit there being the size of nearly three football fields.
Trash would be thrown in as the evenings approached, he recalled in a phone conversation, and then burn and smolder through the next day. “Everything got thrown in there,” he said. “Tires, batteries, plastic water bottles. Even complete vehicles.”
The U.S. military knew the burn pits at its Afghan bases posed health risks to its personnel, and spent more than $20 million building incinerators meant to dispose of the mountains of trash being produced by its soldiers in the country every day: 440 tons at the height of the surge.