Wed, Jul 25, 2012 - Page 7 News List

US general opposed abuse probe: witnesses

AP, WASHINGTON

The US general who led NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan opposed an inspector-general’s investigation into “Auschwitz-like conditions” and corruption at the main Afghan army military hospital, two retired US military officers are telling the US Congress.

The retired officers, in testimony prepared for a US House of Representatives hearing scheduled for yesterday, said Lieutenant General William Caldwell IV admonished subordinates for contacting the US Department of Defense’s inspector-general about Dawood National Military Hospital.

Caldwell is now head of the Army North command and senior commander of Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

North Command spokesman Colonel Wayne Shanks said: “I am sure that Lieutenant General 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.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Caldwell could be called to testify at a future hearing.

Retired Army Colonel Gerald Carozza Jr, who was chief of legal development assisting the Afghan Army and defense ministry, said Caldwell at one point expressed concern that the request was too close to the 2010 congressional elections, but Carozza added that in his view, Caldwell “did not want the request to go to the DOD IG [Department of Defense inspector-general] at all.”

In September last year, the Wall Street Journal reported from Kabul that US officers found that patients at the hospital were routinely dying of simple infections and starving to death, while corrupt doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food and basic care.

A memorandum written by another committee witness, retired Air Force Colonel Schuyler Geller, confirmed the poor treatment and corruption. Geller, a command surgeon attached to the training mission, agreed in a memo that Caldwell did not want an inspector general’s investigation.

Eventually, Caldwell agreed to ask for a limited investigation, but Carozza said his request for the inquiry “would not mention the Auschwitz-like conditions at the National Military Hospital.”

One investigation is focused on the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits commanders from restricting subordinates’ communication with the inspector general.

The second complaint involves allegations of reprisal from a complainant who alleged that Caldwell cited partisan reasons for requesting postponement of an investigation until after the 2010 elections.

Carozza said the committee should be considering a broader issue than conditions at the hospital, adding that he spoke to three officers who were called to a meeting with Caldwell, and all of them offered the same description of the general’s comments.

“Lieutenant General Caldwell screamed at these three officers, waving his finger at them for trying to bring in the DOD IG,” Carozza said.

The general was quoted as saying: “There is nothing wrong in this command that we can’t fix ourselves.”

Carozza said he was in a meeting with Caldwell’s deputy, Patton, when Patton “informed the group that Lieutenant General Caldwell was upset about making the request to DOD IG so close to the election and we were to consider postponing it until afterwards.”

“It was a stunning moment for me,” he added.

Geller, wrote in a memo that he was at a briefing presented to Caldwell about the need for an investigation.

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