A set of shocking images released by Buzzfeed Tuesday (Warning: graphic pictures) detail in horrifying fashion allegations that the head of the U.S. military’s training program in Afghanistan covered up “Auschwitz-like” conditions at the Afghan National Military Hospital.
The report compiles more than 70 pictures and 120 documents submitted as part of an investigation into conditions at Dawood National Military Hospital, part of National Training Mission Afghanistan (NTM-A). The Associated Press reported that two retired Army colonels told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month that in 2010, NTM-A commander Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell called for an investigation request to be retracted because of the congressional elections that year.
Caldwell asked how they could make that kind of request with elections coming, Col. Mark Fassl testified, adding that Caldwell said, “He calls me Bill,” a reference to President Barack Obama.
Fassl’s testimony backs up a letter Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) sent Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in June mentioning that boast. Chaffetz chaired Tuesday’s committee meeting, and introduced a memo ordering “unofficial” audio and video records of Dawood’s patients and conditions be destroyed or deleted.
“Under no circumstances will they be shared outside of this command, transmitted via email, posted to the internet, or duplicated in any way without prior approval of the Command Surgeon …” the memo said.
The pictures Buzzfeed released show the contrast between the “dog and pony show” visiting officials got when touring the hospital and the actual lack of care received by patients, many of whom were actually suffering from malnutrition or mistreatment, often with expired medical supplies.
Another committee witness, ret. Air Force Colonel Schuyler Geller, wrote in a memo that Caldwell did not want an investigation into the hospital’s practices. Buzzfeed reported that Geller went into detail on what was going on in a report to the Defense Department, but that several details – inclulding Caldwell’s role in keeping information from getting out, as well as the involvement of a public contractor and an Afghan general’s “criminal patronage network” – were not passed along to Congress.
This is not the first time Caldwell has been accused of mixing his politics too closely with his command; an article in Rolling Stone last year said he used a “psychological operations” team to manipulate visiting Senators into extending their financial backing for operations in Afghanistan.
A spokesperson for U.S. Army North Command, where Caldwell is currently stationed, said last month Caldwell would welcome the chance to respond to any inquiry.
“I’m confident that once the facts are presented and examined, all allegations will be proven false,” Col. Wayne Shanks said.