Allegations: American Generals Delayed Kabul Hospital Abuse Probe

By: CNN - Posted by Giang Nguyen
By: CNN - Posted by Giang Nguyen

Wounded Afghan soldiers, lying in dirty beds, with unchanged bandages and festering wounds. Some starving because their families have no money to pay for their food. Some beaten when they tell the staff they need pain medication. These are examples of alleged abuse that one Pentagon official described to CNN as "atrocities."

It is said to have happened in 2010 at the Afghan National Military Hospital in Kabul, a hospital in large part funded by the United States and a place where U.S. military personnel were training Afghan medical staff in how to properly treat patients.

It is those U.S. personnel who first brought the alleged abuse to light by taking photos and documenting what happened. Two years later, the United States insists conditions have dramatically improved after two investigations by the Pentagon's inspector general.

But for one man, that's not enough.

Schuyler Geller, a now-retired Air Force physician who ran much of the U.S. medical effort at the hospital, has written a 25-page memo to Congress detailing the abuse, as well as numerous cases in which Afghan staffers are alleged to have stolen drugs and supplies. Geller believes top U.S. military officers failed Afghanistan's war wounded.

That's perhaps bad enough, but another Geller allegation has grabbed the attention of some in Congress who say the Pentagon still has plenty to answer for.

Geller is alleging that two U.S. generals who knew of the problems delayed calling in Pentagon investigators for political reasons. "That's just not acceptable," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee investigating the generals' alleged behavior.

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Geller alleges two senior American generals who oversaw Afghan training - Lt. Gen. William Caldwell and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Gary Patton - in 2010 delayed bringing in Pentagon investigators because of their political concerns over the looming mid-term elections in the United States.

Both Caldwell and Patton declined to comment but the Pentagon is looking into Geller's allegations.

Geller says that Caldwell was angry his staff wanted the inspector general to investigate and that Patton ordered a delay out of concern that the matter would embarrass the Obama White House.

"He says, 'But we don't want to put that request in right now because there is an upcoming general election and we wouldn't want this to leak out,'" Geller told CNN.

Chaffetz told CNN he wants answers from the Pentagon because the allegations about the generals "didn't come from just one high-ranking military official on the ground, it didn't come from just two, we have several of them who have stepped forward and said, 'yes, indeed, this was the case.'"

Geller, who now lives on a farm in rural eastern Tennessee with horses, chickens and several rescue dogs, says he is still tormented by what did - and did not - happen.

"Things as simple as dressing changes are not done, patients become infected and then die," he 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."

A senior Pentagon official told CNN there is no indication the White House knew of any of the alleged conversations. Geller says he was constantly told the problems at the hospital needed to be solved by the Afghans, not the U.S. training teams. He says he just wants the truth to come out.

"The biggest frustration is our own leadership's response how slow that was, how inadequate that was," he said.


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