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US commander accused of stalling Afghan hospital abuse probe

July 24, 2012

WASHINGTON: A top US general in Afghanistan sought to stall an investigation into waste, abuse and mismanagement at a US-funded hospital in Kabul for political reasons, a former US military official will tell Congress today.

Retired Colonel Gerald Carozza, who served as an adviser to the US campaign in Afghanistan, will accuse Lieutenant General William Caldwell, then head of US and NATO efforts to train Afghan security forces, of delaying a military investigation into allegations of corruption and patient abuse at the Dawood National Military Hospital.

“The evidence is clear to me that General Caldwell had the request (for a probe into the hospital) withdrawn and postponed until after the (November 2010 US congressional) election and then, after the election, tried to intimidate his subordinates into a consensus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,” Carozza said in testimony submitted ahead of today’s hearing.

Carozza and others who say they sought to bring problems at the US-funded hospital to light will testify before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which will examine allegations that military officials blocked or delayed the hospital probe.

Colonel Wayne Shanks, a military spokesman, said Caldwell “would welcome the opportunity to respond to any inquiry and I’m confident that once the facts are presented and examined, all allegations will be proven false.”

Last month, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz sent Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a letter on behalf of the Oversight Committee and asked the Defense Department to examine whether military leaders had sought to cover up reports of abuse at the hospital in 2010.

US lawmakers began looking into the hospital last year after The Wall Street Journal reported abuse and neglect of Afghans receiving medical treatment there.

Lawmakers have voiced concerned not only by the allegations that a probe may have been blocked but that mismanagement and fraud were widespread at the hospital, just the latest case raising questions about the U.S. effort to rebuild Afghanistan and ensure stability as most foreign forces withdraw in coming years.

The Pentagon has acknowledged problems at the hospital and has said that “investigations and corrective action” were underway.

Caldwell, who is now a senior Army official in the United States, was not invited to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.

Schuyler Geller, another retired colonel who served in Afghanistan, accused the U.S. leadership in his prepared testimony of “providing half-truths” in the hospital case, including about widespread corruption in the Afghan government.

After over a decade of Western aid efforts in Afghanistan, which have cost tens of billions of dollars, rampant corruption remains a major concern.

-Reuters


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