July 11th, 2012
05:55 AM ET

Congressman criticizes top U.S. general over Afghan hospital

By Larry Shaughnessy

The United States has spent more than $100 million on a huge hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, for treatment of Afghans wounded in the current war. On Tuesday, a congressional subcommittee held a hearing about what one member called the "horrendous neglect and abuse of patients" at the facility.

Another congressman blamed one of America's top generals, William Caldwell, for the problem.

The Dawood National Military Hospital is run by Afghans but virtually all the funding comes from the United States and the United States and other allies staff the hospital with doctors, nurses and other medical experts who "mentor" the Afghans providing the treatment.

Air Force Col. Schuyler Geller is a doctor who was the senior U.S. commander for the mentors at the hospital in 2010. Now retired, he said last week that almost from the time he arrived at Dawood, he saw problems.

"Things as simple as dressing changes are not done, patients become infected and then die," Geller said. "There are patients that are starving to death because they can't buy the food, they have to bribe for food, they have to bribe for medicine ... patients were beaten when they complained about no pain medicine."

Within months, Geller said, he began pointing out the problems to his chain of command, including Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the commander of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan.

At Tuesday's hearing of the House Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigation, Caldwell was criticized for allowing the problems to continue on his watch.

"In my view, he (Caldwell) displayed a fundamental lack of leadership," said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colorado. "The problem really rose to the top and it's stunning that he's still serving today in the United States Army after all that has occurred here."
Geller has said when he first pushed for an outside inspection of the hospital, Caldwell was angry and his deputy said it should be delayed to avoid embarrassing the White House just before the 2010 midterm elections.

Caldwell did eventually ask for a Department of Defense Inspector General investigation of the hospital. But that investigation began after the election.

There is no indication the White House was aware of the alleged delay of the investigation.

The Pentagon does not dispute that there were serious problems at the hospital. But it blames underfunding and Maj. Gen. Ahmad Yaftali, Afghanistan's top medical officer at Dawood. David Sedney, the assistant defense secretary for central Asia, said "Gen. Yaftali was removed from the leadership of the hospital. To our knowledge he does not have another position inside the FDN forces."

Since Yaftali was replaced, the Pentagon says, the hospital has improved. Kenneth Moorefield, a Defense Department Inspector General, testified that a team of inspectors visited the hospital two weeks ago and found there "were no complaints or evidence of patient maltreatment; new processes and procedures to improve personnel accountability and patient care."

But Geller said last week that corrupt Afghans warn the hospital when inspectors are coming so they can clean up and hide mistreated patients. At one point, after the Defense Department Inspector General's first inspection and after Yaftali was replaced, Geller said one of his colleagues made a surprise visit and found "the same horrific conditions."

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, said Geller should have been called to testify Tuesday. "I'd like to express disappointment; however, that Col. Geller is not before the committee to discuss his concerns about the significant level of corruption in the Afghan military medical organization. If his allegations are true, we can only conclude that the Army was complicit in wasting millions of dollars and the horrendous neglect and abuse of patients that had a reasonable expectation of quality care."

Geller is expected to testify in the near future when a separate congressional committee holds hearings on the hospital.

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Rmaness

    I am disappointed they did not have Col Geller there to testify. Hopefully they will get his actual testimony soon. Anyone that knows him will realize what an excellent leader he is and that his credibility is unquestionable. We citizens hae to put a stop to the massive revenue waste that happens every minute of every day in all these huge federal projects.

    July 14, 2012 at 7:41 am | Reply
    • not disclosed

      I was a contractor at the hospital when Col Geller was there. I have been trying to reach someone interested in the information I have supporting his claims. The thefts and cover up continue today.. General Yaftali was dirty but the problem is with the subordinates who are accountable for equipment such as Col Gul Ahmad. I have evidence of the theft and wrong doing and have offered it to the government but they seem to have done nothing with it. My employer was given a contract to to do an inventory of the ANA hospitals including Kabul but we were refused access by Col Gul Ahmad. The Government is now canceling our contract saying that we failed. What really happened is the ANA did not want the inventory done. But the contractor is being blamed. This information plus much more is going unused. Col Geller knows me. I wish I would be contacted.

      July 25, 2012 at 12:40 am | Reply
  2. CommonSense

    The Russians are laughing at us. We never learned anything from the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

    July 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  3. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    The GOP solution: Turn all Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Unemployed, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Employed, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:28 am | Reply
  4. Andrey

    100 million? With money channelled through corrupt Afghan officials and then materials, supplies and services all procured from US contractors – no wonder the patients are dying of starvation and personnel living on bribes rather than salary!

    July 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  5. ronbro51

    Only 100 Million? Guess that money did not end up in the hospital huh? Wonder why?? Incompetent spending at the expense of taxpayers oops!

    July 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  6. jjack

    you pakis are smoking pot as usual.Osama was watching porn when the SEALs shot him dead. You muslims are the pests of the world.

    July 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  7. etcskgsrn

    Whenever a problem is discovered in the military chain of command, the first PLAN OF ACTION is instinctively DAMAGE CONTROL ASSESSMENT. If damage control is evaluated as a viable OPTION a PLAN OF ACTION will be devised and initiated to mitigate COLLATERAL DAMAGE. Spelled in short CYA.

    July 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Reply
    • NN

      Every single thing the military does is problematic, so they have plenty of practice. The entire military is r o t t e n to the core.

      July 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  8. Wow

    100-million and done in 2010.

    Made in America is what that should read.

    July 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  9. Portland tony

    Unfortunately, our aid people can't just walk into a somewhat backward country and tell people to do things the Western way. We can fund the Construction of dams, bridges, hospitals, schools,highways etc...But once built who pays for the operation and maintenance? With limited skills and funds. The indigenous people can't afford the upkeep and so 10 years after we leave there will be no sign that we ever were there.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • NN

      You're being naive. The most backwards people on earth know that America is d u m b and rich. They always figure a way to b i l k the Americans, and the DoD never disappoints their expectations.

      July 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  10. Conrad Shull

    "run by Afghans" would seem to me to be the heart of the problem.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Reply
    • dee

      Occupied by the US , even a bigger problem

      July 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Another war lost because we simply cannot understand anything Unamerican !

      July 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • Ree

      Wow do you hear that. That's the sound of freedom on the march.
      War will NEVER bring ANYTHING good.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  11. TopView20

    The US military and the American people need to see accountability of the highest ranking officers and custodians of care. However, most all Americans expect to see a quick cover-up and redirection of the media´s focus. The only way to deal with Afghanistan is to get out and not look back. The USA will never succeed in "nation building." It simply cannot be accomplished anywhere, regardless of Hilary Clinton´s affection for the mythical term. Afghanistan will never develop and progress. Intelligent and astute individuals need not waste time dreaming of this ridiculous conception. As for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the USA needs to see accountability of the Chief Executive that ordered these unwarrented military operations. Unfortunately, accountability is not part of the America culture, except for the lowest ranking pawns.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
    • Suad

      @topview20
      I believe you are very smart individual,American or not I don't care, wish there are more American citizens with a same thought process so in the future we don't elect corrupted War Criminals and politician to run our country

      July 11, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  12. pbernasc

    Always the same story ... there is a reason why Afghanistan is where it is ... the sad story is that unfortunately if left on its own, it will again become a base for terror activities ...
    It costs a lot of money to prevent that, the question is if it cost more to let it happen again.
    The way I see it .. it does ... no easy solution on this

    July 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  13. allens

    afghan. is a cesspool and always will be. pull everyone out and stop sending money, lives and aid. wake up! all these people saying this is not vietnam are correct. we got out and left them alone. look at them now. they did better without our help

    July 11, 2012 at 11:59 am | Reply
  14. chris

    why are we accepting blame for a US taxpayer mega hospital we built in hostile territory?

    obama's failure in afganistan knows no limits.

    July 11, 2012 at 11:28 am | Reply
    • pbernasc

      funny ... things were a lot worse under Bush but I didn't hear you complaining .. mmmhh may be it's because u r not very smart, isn't it?

      July 11, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • MMTX

      Let's see, a quick Google search allows you to reach that the hospital was built in 2005 – long before Obama. And why are we there in this mess anyway? Oh yea, George W.

      July 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  15. xfiler93

    what a disgrace.

    July 11, 2012 at 11:10 am | Reply
  16. SophieCat

    "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern” Proverbs 29:7

    July 11, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
  17. Rdabrludba

    At least for another decade USA must wrap up itself and limit to the Northern America, and should not give itself to be seduced into international policing or messianic jobs. In the meantime let the young nations mature themselves and US repair her economy. Charity should begin at home. Then go out and help, not destroy yourself or others.

    July 11, 2012 at 10:12 am | Reply
  18. Rosslaw

    Scores of millions of dollars going astray in one of the three (Somalia and Iraq in this club) most corrupt pseudo-nations on the planet! Stunning? And Republicans not getting to wet their beak! Truly criminal. All that money laundering talent developed in Iraq going to waste.

    July 11, 2012 at 9:24 am | Reply
    • Patrick

      Why are spending all this money abroad? We should be helping our Americans?

      July 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Reply
  19. Hahahahahahahahaha

    A GOP congressman giving someone else heck about a "fundamental lack of leadership". Not THAT's funny!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahahahahahahaha

    July 11, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply
    • Tom

      I agree, would have been worse , the Dems woud have just given them the 100M. You build them a hospital its up to them to run. But this should be no supprise , they have no reguard for life in these countries

      July 11, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
      • pat

        Geez, guy, where'd you go to school and learn (didn't learn?) how to spell?

        July 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  20. Globehopper

    To think, the IRS wants to know where every cent comes from just to turn around and hand it over to the same government that spouts of Austerity, Don't spend beyond your means etc.... The US Government is sending out bad signals to the world. If you rob a bank you get life, if you lose other peoples money you get a slap on the wrist. WHERE IS THE RESPONSIBILITY and WHO IS RESPONSIBLE US GOVERNMENT?. We have run down schools, rundown hospitals, rundown infrastructure and we're giving money to country that will NEVER govern itself. They are a hundred years from the 1800's. It's no wonder we have MULTI-MILLION and BILLIONAIRES renouncing American Citizenship.

    July 11, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
    • Romin2003

      Hear, hear. Waste of time and waste of money on Afghanistan. Their social maladies are beyond USA's control and the moment we leave for good, they will revert back to be as bad (or worse) as they were before the war. We don't understand their culture, and we never will. With so many people needing medical care they can't afford in the US, why are we (again) wasting money and time on these people?

      July 11, 2012 at 10:39 am | Reply
      • Romin2003

        And, if I was a billionaire, I would renounce my US citizenship as well. I'd rather be the one choosing which causes I want to donate my money, rather than have the government give it to losers like this one.

        July 11, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  21. Bangash

    This is just one example of how Americans as a nation are being cheated. Billions of dollars have been spent and billions are in the pipe line but it will neither help Afghans nor will add to the image of American nation for spending 100 millions on this hospital. Same is the story of other projects where American contractors with the help of few Afghans in similar way embezzle money and during last more then decade long occupation no project worth appreciation can be quoted as an example except training Afghan Army and own military bases. This is the reason that Afghans do not trust and see their country occupied by American military force. Afghans are honest in friendship then any other nation on this earth provided one prove himself a good friend however since last two centuries they are under attack by the world super powers. History has always taken turn from here as all the big one have been buried here and political/ geographical landscapes have been changed.. Wining hearts and minds of Afghans is the only way for safe stay on Afghan soil as guns and bombs have always failed and backfired.

    July 11, 2012 at 8:57 am | Reply
  22. EVN

    Foreign aid is one thing. Foreign waste on a magnatude such as this is inexcusable. No one in our government is accountable for anything anymore it seems. Regulators fail to find problems even after someone leads them to the problem, money spent in "rebuilding" countries we have invaded apparently gets handed out with no oversight, unbelievable cost overruns and gouging goes on routinely in military spending – it goes on and on.

    Yet the taxpayers are expected to cough up more and just allow this nonsense continue. Just pathetic.

    July 11, 2012 at 8:46 am | Reply
  23. StanCalif

    It's simply amazing how we continue to hand over millions of dollars to Afghans, then "trust" them!
    Have we ever "trusted" Karsai? NO! But we continue to "give" him money and expect no accountability!
    Congress cannot manage our own domestic spending, yet for some reason the "big black hole" of giving money to foreign sources continues unquestioned and never any accountability! "Where does the money go?" Does anyone ever ask?

    July 11, 2012 at 7:13 am | Reply
    • George Patton

      Unfortunately Stan, you're quite right. This how Washington does business since the M.I.C. is in control of things. Don't forget it owns the majority in Congress plus the White House!

      July 11, 2012 at 10:06 am | Reply

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