The impact of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan can be seen not only in the social, economic and political situations of these areas but also in the environments in which these wars have been waged. The long years of war have resulted in a radical destruction of forest cover and an increase in carbon emissions. In addition, the water supply has been contaminated by oil from military vehicles and depleted uranium from ammunition. Along with the degradation of the natural resources in these countries, the animal and bird populations have also been adversely affected.


Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution from Military Vehicles:  Even setting aside the accelerated operational tempo of wartime, the Department of Defense has been the country’s single largest consumer of fuel, using about 4.6 billion gallons of fuel each year.[1] Military vehicles consume petroleum-based fuels at an extremely high rate: an M-1 Abrams tank can get just over a half mile on a gallon of fuel per mile or use about 300 gallons during eight hours of operation.[2]  Bradley Fighting Vehicles consume about 1 gallon per mile driven.

War accelerates fuel use.  By one estimate, the U.S. military used 1.2 million barrels of oil in Iraq in just one month of 2008.[3]  This high rate of fuel use over non-wartime conditions has to do in part with the fact that fuel must be delivered to vehicles in the field by other vehicles, using fuel.  One military estimate in 2003 was that two-thirds of the Army’s fuel consumption occurred in vehicles that were delivering fuel to the battlefield.[4]  The military vehicles used in both Iraq and Afghanistan produced many hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and sulfur dioxide in addition to CO2. In addition, the allied bombing campaign of a variety of toxics-releasing sites such as ammunition depots, and the intentional setting of oil fires by Saddam Hussein during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to air, soil, and water pollution.[5]

War-Accelerated Destruction and Degradation of Forests and Wetlands: The wars have also damaged forests, wetlands and marshlands in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.  Radical deforestation has accompanied this and the previous wars in Afghanistan.  Total forest area decreased 38 percent in Afghanistan from 1990 to 2007.[6]  This is a result of illegal logging, which is associated with the rising power of the warlords, who have enjoyed U.S. support.  In addition, deforestation has occurred in each of these countries as refugees seek out fuel and building materials.  Drought, desertification, and species loss that accompany habitat loss have been the result.  Moreover, as the wars have led to environmental destruction, the degraded environment itself contributes in turn to further conflict.[7]

War-Accelerated Wildlife Destruction: Bombing in Afghanistan and deforestation have threatened an important migratory thoroughfare for birds leading through this area. The number of birds now flying this route has dropped by 85 percent.[8]  U.S. bases became a lucrative market for the skins of the endangered Snow Leopard, and impoverished and refugee Afghans have been more willing to break the ban on hunting them, in place since 2002. [9] Foreign aid workers who arrived in the city in large numbers following the collapse of the Taliban regime have also purchased the skins.  Their remaining numbers in Afghanistan were estimated at between 100 and 200 in 2008.[10]

Toxic Dust: While destruction of military base garbage in burn pits and toxic dust from military operations have added to air pollution, heavy military vehicles have also disturbed the earth, particularly in Iraq and Kuwait. Combined with drought as a result of deforestation and global climate change, dust has become a major problem exacerbated by the major new movements of military vehicles across the landscape. The U.S. military has focused on the health effects of dust for military personnel serving in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.  U.S. Geologic Survey microbiologists have found heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cobalt, barium, and aluminum, which can cause respiratory distress, and other health problems. [11] Since 2001, there has been a 251 percent rise in the rate of neurological disorders, a 47 percent increase in the rate of respiratory problems, and a 34 percent rise in rates of cardio-vascular disease in military service members that is likely related to this problem.[12]

Water Pollution: Water may contaminated by the chemical residue of weapons and military operations, such as depleted uranium from shells and benzene and trichloroethylene from air base operations. Perchlorate, a toxic ingredient in rocket propellent, is one of a number of contaminants commonly found in groundwater around munitions storage sites around the world, with research needed on the extent of such pollution in all three war zones.

War related pollution has clearly already affected the health of Iraqis and Afghans.  A household survey in Fallujah, Iraq in early 2010 obtained responses to a questionnaire on cancer, birth defects, and infant mortality.  Significantly higher rates of cancer in 2005-2009 compared to rates in Egypt and Jordan were found.  The infant mortality rate in Fallujah was 80 deaths per 1000 live births, significantly higher than rates of 20 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 10 in Kuwait.  The ratio of male births to female births in the 0-4 age cohort was 860 to 1000 compared to the expected 1050 per 1000. This suggested that there have been created grave mutation-related health problems in Fallujah with the US siege.[13]

One of the major environmental threats comes from Depleted Uranium that has been used in U.S. ammunition. It contaminates both soil and water, and with a half-life of 4.5 billion years, is deeply persistent and carcinogenic.


Some budgetary items are included in the totals for Pentagon war spending but their portion of the spending is not easy to identify or estimate for various reasons, including concerns about secrecy. Specifically, we were unable to specifically identify:

  • how much of the money within the Pentagon’s budget for these wars for Commander’s Emergency Response Program funds in Afghanistan and Iraq was used for condolence (or “solatia”) payments to the survivors of a civilian killed by U.S. operations, or to individuals who have been injured or whose property has been damaged by the war.   Those payments totaled about $31 million in Iraq in FY2005 and 2006 and 210,000 in Afghanistan in FY2006.[14]  We have not identified the additional condolence money that has been paid in Afghanistan and Iraq by the United States Department of State and the Agency for International Development. Although the Pakistani government does provide some assistance, the U.S. does not provide aid to civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan.
  • the costs of the CIA managed Predator and Reaper RPV drone surveillance and strike program in Pakistan (and Yemen, where strikes have also occurred). This black budget item is inside the Pentagon budgetand includes the costs of the drones, the operators, fuel, and weapons, and is not publicly known.  We cannot say if expenditures for the drone program are entirely contained in the accounting of Pentagon spending for the wars or also partly in the base portion of the Pentagon budget. We can say this about the Air Force version of the drone program. As the New York Times reported in 2009, “Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their unmanned Predator spy planes — which are 27 feet long, powered by a high-performance snowmobile engine, and cost $4.5 million apiece — have crashed, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.”[15]
  • the portion of the National Intelligence budget devoted to the wars.  The proposal to separate the National Intelligence Program money from the overall Pentagon budget has not been approved by Congress.  In February 2011, the Director of National Intelligence released for the first time their annual budget request: $55 billion.  “Any and all subsidiary information concerning the National Intelligence Program (NIP) budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programs, will not be disclosed. Beyond the disclosure of the NIP top-line figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified budget information because such disclosures could harm national security.”


  • Destruction of military base garbage in burn pits and other military operations have created dangerous levels of toxic dust
  • Two-thirds of the Army’s fuel consumption in the war zones is spent delivering fuel to the battlefield
  • Deforestation in Afghanistan as a result of illegal logging, particularly by warlords, has destroyed wildlife habitat
  • Depleted uranium from US munitions has been blamed for elevated levels of cancer in the population of Iraq

Brown University Watson Institute for International Studies



[1] Col. Gregory J. Lengyel, USAF, Department of Defense Energy Strategy: Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks. 21st Century Defense Initiative. Washington, DC:  The Brookings Institution, August, 2007, p. 10.
[2]Global Security.Org, M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/m1-specs.htm
[3] Associated Press, “Facts on Military Fuel Consumption,” USA Today, 2 April 2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-04-02-2602932101_x.htm.
[4] Cited in Joseph Conover, Harry Husted, John MacBain, Heather McKee. Logistics and Capability Implications of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle with a Fuel Cell Auxiliary Power Unit. SAE Technical Papers Series, 2004-01-1586. 2004 SAE World Congress, Detroit, Michigan, March 8-11, 2004. http://delphi.com/pdf/techpapers/2004-01-1586.pdf
[5] United Nations Statistics Division. “United Nations Statistics Division – Environment Statistics.” United Nations Statistics Division. http://unstats.un.org/unsd/environment/Questionnaires/country_snapshots.htm.
[6] Carlotta Gall, War-Scarred Afghanistan in Environmental Crisis, The New York Times, January 30, 2003.
[7] Enzler, S.M. “Environmental effects of war.” Water Treatment and Purification – Lenntech. http://www.lenntech.com/environmental-effects-war.htm.
[8] Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MoAIL). “Afghanistan’s Fourth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity.” UNEP. postconflict.unep.ch/afghanistan/report/afghanistanpcajanuary2003.pdf; Noras, Sibylle. “Afghanistan.” Saving Snow Leopards. snowleopardblog.com/projects/afghanistan/.
[9] Reuters, “Foreigners threaten Afghan Snow Leopards,” 27 June 2008. http://www.enn.com/wildlife/article/37501
[10] Kennedy, Kelly. “Navy researcher links toxins in war-zone dust to ailments.” USA Today, May 14, 2011. http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-05-11-Iraq-Afghanistan-dust-soldiers-illnesses_n.htm.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Busby C, Hamdan M and Ariabi E. Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009. Int.J Environ.Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 2828-2837.
[13] Busby C, Hamdan M and Ariabi E. Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009. Int.J Environ.Res. Public Health 2010, 7, 2828-2837.

[14] Government Accountability Office, “The Defense Department’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” GAO, May 2007.
[15] Christopher Drew, “Drones are Weapon of Choice in Fighting Qaeda,” The New York Times, 16 March 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/business/17uav.html.


SOURCE  http://costsofwar.org/


About sooteris kyritsis

Job title: (f)PHELLOW OF SOPHIA Profession: RESEARCHER Company: ANTHROOPISMOS Favorite quote: "ITS TIME FOR KOSMOPOLITANS(=HELLINES) TO FLY IN SPACE." Interested in: Activity Partners, Friends Fashion: Classic Humor: Friendly Places lived: EN THE HIGHLANDS OF KOSMOS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF AMENTHE
This entry was posted in News and politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s