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Top US Commander accused of stalling Afghanistan hospital abuse probe

Published time: July 24, 2012 10:46
Edited time: July 24, 2012 14:46
AFGHANISTAN hospital. 
(AFP PHOTO / STR )

AFGHANISTAN hospital. (AFP PHOTO / STR )

A Congressional hearing on a delayed probe into a US-funded Afghan military hospital has aroused concerns that rampant corruption hampers the NATO occupation. An official cited “Auschwitz-like conditions” at the hospital, among other concerns.

­The former head of training for Afghan security forces, Army Lieutenant General William Caldwell, is accused of blocking an investigation of possible abuse and mismanagement at Kabul’s Dawood National Military Hospital. The Congressional hearing begins Tuesday.

Retired Colonel Gerald Carozza, a former adviser to the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan, claims that that Caldwell stalled the probe for political reasons. "The general did not want bad news to leave his command before the election or after the election," according to the Associated Press, which has obtained a copy of Carozza’s expected testimony ahead of the hearing.

The Wall Street Journal broke the story last year, revealing that Afghans who received treatment at the hospital allegedly suffered neglect and abuse. The September 2011 report told of patients at the hospital dying of easy-to-cure infections, and starving to death while corrupt doctors demanded bribes for food and medicine.

Then-Colonel Carozza, who was the Chief of Legal Development for the Afghan National Army and Defense Ministry, said Caldwell stalled an investigation into the case because of the charged nature of the 2010 Congressional elections.

When the story went public, US lawmakers voiced concerns that efforts to rebuild and stabilize Afghanistan were being threatened. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta received a letter in June 2012 from a member of the Congressional Oversight Committee asking the Defense Department to investigate the 2010 abuse accusations. The Pentagon replied that "investigations and corrective action" were underway.

­

Stalling for time, or obstruction of justice?

­Witnesses are expected to deliver testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The committee will then render a verdict on whether the investigation was delayed, or blocked outright.

The witnesses assured news agency Reuters of the veracity of their evidence.

“The evidence is clear to me that General Caldwell had the request [for a probe into the hospital] withdrawn and postponed until after the [November 2010 US congressional] election and then, after the election, tried to intimidate his subordinates into a consensus that it need not move forward at all,” testified Carozza ahead of Tuesday's hearing.

The Pentagon remains hopeful that Lt-General Caldwell will be exonerated. “I'm confident that once the facts are presented and examined, all allegations will be proven false,” said military spokesperson Colonel Wayne Shanks.

Retired Army Colonel Schuyler Geller, who served in Afghanistan, said that the US military is "providing half-truths" in the case, according to Reuters. Geller claimed that widespread corruption is the main obstacle to Western aid efforts in Afghanistan.

Lt-General Caldwell is not expected to attend the first day of hearing.

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