US military officers accused one of the highest-ranking US commanders in Afghanistan of trying to cover up a scandal at a US-funded hospital in Kabul to limit bad news in an election year.
The problems date back to 2010, when US officers expressed concerns about the possible embezzlement of funds from the Afghan-run Dawood National Military Hospital and the lack of treatment provided to wounded Afghan soldiers.
Some Afghan soldiers died of malnutrition at the hospital, in conditions that one retired Army colonel described as “Auschwitz-like.”
Several officers told US lawmakers on Tuesday that they were encouraged by Lieutenant General William Caldwell, then head of the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan, not to report the problems to the Pentagon inspector general.
“The general did not want bad news to leave his command before the election – or AFTER the election,” Colonel Gerald Carozza, Jr., a now-retired US Army judge advocate, said in written testimony to the House Committee on Oversight.
“The general, like too many generals, was too concerned about the message, creating a stifling climate for those who had to deal with the reality,” Carozza said, comparing Dawood to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
The accusations against Caldwell, which date back to the time ahead of contentious 2010 midterm congressional elections, come ahead of November polls in which President Barack Obama is seeking re-election.
Colonel Mark Fassl, who was inspector general of the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan, echoed Carozza’s concerns.
He cited Caldwell as saying “How could we do this or make this request with elections coming?” and then said the lieutenant general added, “He calls me Bill” — saying he believed Caldwell was referring to Obama.
Funds allocated for the Dawood hospital’s use, notably for the purchase of medications, were spent two times faster than in a comparable US facility, due to the corrupt practices in place.
The Pentagon inspector general is now investigating the accusations against Caldwell, who is now based in Texas.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an unnamed person with direct knowledge of the matter, said Caldwell had in fact supported a probe but wanted Afghan officials to take the lead.