The bombardment of Afghanistan that began on 7th October 2001 went by the Orwellian title of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire, has recently estimated that 500-600 tonnes of DU were used in Afghanistan, ie. comparable in scale to Iraq. However, the US government has not confirmed the use of DU munitions.
Within 2 weeks of the start of the Afghan bombing campaign, Herold reports claims by doctors in Kandahar and Herat of patients with unusual toxic sickness symptoms. By November 2002, there were reports of abnormal births.
Marc Herold DU page
Dai Williams has investigated the US bunker-buster arsenal, and also concludes that the US launched a huge number of DU bombs at Afghanistan, and of an unprecendented size - see page on Weaponisation of DU
There has been virtually no discussion of DU in the media about the Afghanistan war, and the US government officially denies it. However this statement by US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, carried by Reuters on 16 January 2002, was the first official confirmation that DU has been detected in Afghanistan.
One site registered an increased level of radioactivity but it appeared to be a result of depleted uranium in some warheads and not from any nuclear or radiological weapon of mass descruction
The September/October 2002 report of the UMRC field team in Afghanistan, also mentions suspicious symptons:
The UMRC field team was shocked by the breadth of public health impacts coincident with the bombing. Without exception, at every bombsite investigated, people are ill. A significant portion of the civilian population presents symptoms consistent with internal contamination by Uranium.
According to CADU's Winter 2003 Newsletter, the UMRC team identified several hundred people in the Jalalabad region suffering with complex symptons similar to those of Gulf War Veterans, and sent urine (and soil) samples to an independent research lab in the UK. It turned out that every person donating urine specimens tested positive for internal uranium contamination, with concentrations of uranium isotopes between 100 and 400 times greater than in tests on Gulf War veterans in 1999.
In May 2003, the UMRC released their latest findings, confirming the high uranium levels. In a complicating twist however, they announced that the uranium's isotopic signature matched natural uranium (more or less, there may have been some U236 contamination as well), rather than DU.
The implications of this are not clear yet (was it just to throw DU investigators off the trail ?), but in any case, natural uranium warheads would have the same characteristics as DU ones.
This may shed new light on why the US was so reluctant to send its own troops in to flush the remnants of Al-Qaida out of the caves of Tora Bora, preferring to send in local forces (and then blaming them, when Bin Laden allegedly escaped).
It may also be the case that rumours of an Al-Qaida "dirty bomb" were launched as a cover-up, to preempt any investigations into the possible discovery of post-war DU contamination in Afghanistan.