The airbase, known as the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, or K2, came under scrutiny after media investigations revealed veterans faced a range of illnesses after being deployed to the base. These veterans have been self-reporting rare cancers, disorders, and other illnesses they believe are linked to the time they served on the base on a Facebook page run by the Stronghold Freedom Foundation, a group that represents the veterans that were deployed in K2.
McClatchy reported in early 2020 that the base was contaminated by a refined form of uranium, chemical weapon solvents, and pools of fuel that produced a “black goo” at the soldiers’ feet. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), service members who were at K2 may have been exposed to jet fuel, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and dust, depleted uranium, asbestos, and lead-based paint.
The Department of Defense conducted an initial study that was published in 2015 and found that service members deployed to K2 faced “a higher risk of malignant melanoma and neoplasms of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues.” However, the results could not definitively link each type of cancer with service at K2, the DVA said.
The aim of Trump’s study is to determine whether there was any causal link between exposure to any toxic substances at the base and health consequences. The study is also meant to help the secretary of Veteran Affairs decide whether veterans who served at K2 are eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care.
The order directs the defense secretary to investigate the potential toxic exposure of K2 veterans deployed between Oct. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2005.
The study is to identify “any toxic substances contaminating the air base during such period, the exact locations of the toxic substances, the time frames of exposure to the toxic substances, the service members exposed to the toxic substances, and the circumstances of such exposure.”
The investigation would also include an epidemiological study to determine any health consequences from such exposure.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
The K2 veteran issue had received bipartisan support with Reps. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) introducing legislation in February last year, asking the secretary of defense to recognize Uzbekistan as a combat zone for purposes of medical care.
Green commended Trump’s executive order on Tuesday, saying that it was a “crucial step” toward recognizing K2 veterans’ service and illnesses.
“Two decades have passed since American troops left K2 during Operation Enduring Freedom. And today, K2 veterans who faced devastating exposure to uranium, cyanide, and other toxins while serving their country are finally receiving justice,” Green said in a statement.
“This executive order, modeled after my bipartisan legislation with Chairman Lynch, is a win for our K2 veterans who have been diagnosed with cancer, reproductive health issues, and neurological illnesses after serving at the base. These heroes fought for us, now we must fight for them and the care they need to survive.”
Stronghold Freedom Foundation also responded to Trump’s order, calling it “amazing news.”
From The Epoch Times