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Afghan Govt. Rejects WSJ Report on Immense Corruption at top Military Hospital - 09-09-2011, 01:36 PM
The Head of Health of the Chief of Staffs of National Defense Ministry
rejected the reports about the Hospital of Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan
Shaheed appeared on the hird of current month. General Dr. Abdul Qayum
Totakhail addressing a conference said that the daily Wall Street Journal
has printed a report on the hospital which it stated that vast corruption
exists at this hospital and patients are treated on the basis of relations
with powerful figures.
Bakhtar News Agency - Wall Street Journal Report Rejected
The original report:
At Afghan Military Hospital,
Graft and Deadly Neglect
KABUL—American officers deployed as mentors in Afghanistan's main
military hospital discovered a shocking secret last year: Injured soldiers
were routinely dying of simple infections and even starving to death as
some corrupt doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food and the most
basic of care.
U.S. Gen. William Caldwell IV pinned a medal
on a soldier last year at an Afghan military
hospital where patient neglect was found to be
The discovery, which hasn't previously been reported, added new details
to longstanding evidence of gross mismanagement at Dawood National
Military Hospital, where most salaries and supplies are paid for by American
Yet the patient neglect continued for months after U.S. officials discovered
it, as Afghan officials rebuffed American pressure to take action, multiple
documents and testimonies viewed by The Wall Street Journal show.
The way senior Afghan officials tolerated such deadly graft shows just how
deeply rooted corruption has become in President Hamid Karzai's
administration, as well as the limits of Washington's ability to rein it in.
American advisers have since forced an improvement in conditions at the
Afghan policeman Ali Noor Hazrat had been admitted to Dawood hospital
after being injured in a Taliban rocket attack on a police convoy last fall.
Initially patched up by American doctors, he spent his last days starving
there while his brother Sher sold off what little land the poor farming family
had in order to bribe nurses and doctors for care and food, the brother said
in an interview. In photos, Ali's flesh hangs off his frail, boney frame, his
eyes heavy with pain. He died on Dec. 27, Afghan government documents
An emaciated Afghan soldier
"Malnourished/starvation," said an internal coalition slide showing Mr.
Hazrat, dated Nov. 5, prepared by American mentors at the hospital to
document abuse cases. "Willful neglect," another bullet point said.
Sher Hazrat is determined that none of his relatives in the eastern
Nangarhar province will consider joining Afghan security forces after what
happened at Dawood. "If there's no service for us," he says, "why should
we serve our country?"
Such sentiments have raised questions about how the fledgling Afghan
military would fare against Taliban insurgents once most U.S. troops depart
Dawood is the premier hospital of the Afghan security forces, akin to the
Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S.
As early as 2006, American officers noted evidence of severe dysfunction
at the hospital, including patients who appeared to be malnourished, a U.S.
military mentor who served there at the time says. He adds that the
findings were reported to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, but no action
was taken to improve conditions.
In 2008, doctors complained to hospital administrators that patients were
being given defective morphine, according to internal documents produced
by the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, or NTM-A. Later testing
revealed the presence of counterfeit morphine, suggesting that
U.S.-procured medicine had been diverted.
U.S. mentors found mistreatment at Dawood
National Military Hospital.
The NTM-A command, headed since November 2009 by U.S. Army Lt. Gen.
William Caldwell, is spending $11.6 billion this year alone, more than 90% of
it funded by U.S. taxpayers, on building up the Afghan army and police.
The biggest problem, American officials dealing with the hospital concluded
by the middle of last year, was the Afghan army's politically connected
surgeon general, Gen. Ahmed Zia Yaftali. As early as May 2010, U.S.
officials say they confronted Gen. Yaftali about missing pharmaceuticals at
the hospital and asked him to investigate. They ultimately came to suspect
that he himself was profiting from graft, according to mentors and senior
NTM-A commanders. The alleged theft of pharmaceuticals in the hospital
has previously been reported by the Associated Press.
In an email to Gen. Caldwell dated August 25, 2010, U.S. Army Col. Gerald
Carozza, a senior legal mentor at the Afghan defense ministry, complained
that corruption was "deep and wide" within the senior leadership of the
Afghan defense ministry and army and urged him to pressure the defense
minister to allow various internal investigations to proceed. He said in the
email that the Afghan army chief of staff's legal team was developing a
case against Gen. Yaftali involving "a $20 million (US) theft from [the
defense ministry] and pilfering $153 million (US) worth of medical supplies."
Gen. Yaftali denied all allegations of impropriety in a phone interview and
declined to discuss them further, saying he would "only answer" to the
Afghan defense ministry.
In his reply to Col. Carozza, Gen. Caldwell argued that the Afghan
government needed to take responsibility for combatting corruption in the
military. "We're not going to be able to solve this for them. Keep
encouraging them to do the right thing," he wrote.
The U.S. government in general has been trying to build Afghan institutions
that can solve their own problems, in preparation for an eventual U.S.
"We can build the greatest army, we can build the greatest police force,"
Gen. Caldwell said in an interview. "But if we don't have the rule of law
being implemented...then we were not going to have legitimacy in this
Afghan policeman Ali Noor Hazrat starved at
In a Sept. 14 visit to the hospital to show America's appreciation to
wounded Afghan soldiers, Gen. Caldwell was accompanied by the Afghan
army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammed Karimi. There, the two
stopped by the bed of an emaciated Afghan soldier. Gen. Caldwell thanked
him for his service and let Gen. Karimi pin a U.S. Army achievement medal
to the Afghan soldier's bedsheets.
Gen. Caldwell said he was emotionally moved when he saw the patient's
condition, but wasn't yet aware that neglect at the hospital was systemic.
Minutes after the American general left, the Afghan soldier—who hadn't
been fed by the hospital in weeks—threw out his medal, people present in
the hospital say.
A beefed-up group of at least two dozen U.S. military mentors had arrived
at the hospital in August 2010 as part of the "surge" of American forces in
Afghanistan. They began to deploy throughout the wards, replacing an
earlier group that had less direct contact with patients.
By the following month, the new mentors began to document what they
describe as horrific conditions. Maggots fed off patients' open wounds.
Nurses and doctors refused to help amputees to the bathroom, and they
soiled their beds for days.
Several patients died of simple infections because their bandages would go
unchanged for weeks, while at least four died of complications related to
malnourishment, according to mentors and internal documents.
In late September, Gen. Karimi was invited to attend an Afghan shura, a
traditional meeting, at the hospital with Canadian Brigadier Gen. David
Neasmith, the assistant commander for army development at the NTM-A.
NATO officials pressed Gen. Karimi to address the problem of staff
absenteeism and missing medicine, a U.S. mentor who was present says.
But Afghan hospital and army officials who attended the meeting steered
the conversation away from such issues and asked for raises and
promotions, the mentor says.
As weeks passed without progress, the mentors say they assembled more
evidence of neglect, including detailed medical charts and photos showing
emaciated patients and bedsores a foot long and so deep that bones
protruded from them.
In an Oct. 4 document emailed by the mentors to Gen. Neasmith, they
complained about the hospital's intensive-care unit, among other issues:
"The most dynamic and ill affected is the ICU, whereby favoritism,
ambivalence, incompetence coupled with understaffing lead to the untimely
deaths of patients daily, occasionally several times per day."
That month, Gen. Caldwell visited the Afghan defense minister, Gen.
Abdulrahim Wardak, and persuaded him to launch a new investigation into
Gen. Yaftali, according to two U.S. officers. Gen. Wardak and the Afghan
defense ministry spokesman didn't reply to repeated requests for comment
for this article except to say that Gen. Yaftali is still under investigation.
Gen. Wardak warned that prosecuting Gen. Yaftali would be difficult,
saying the surgeon general was too politically connected, according to
U.S. officials involved in the issue. Gen. Yaftali fought against the Taliban
in the 1990s alongside other ethnic Tajiks who have since became
prominent government figures.
In late October, with the Afghan investigation going nowhere and Gen.
Yaftali keeping his job, Col. Carozza, NTM-A Inspector General Army Col.
Mark Fassl and U.S. Air Force Col. Schuyler Geller, the chief mentor to the
hospital, filed a request that the U.S. Defense Department inspector
general assist in investigating the hospital.
The coalition declined to make Col. Geller available for an in-person
interview. The Canadian military declined to make available Gen. Neasmith,
who has since returned to Canada.
According to a November 2010 NTM-A memo titled "Leadership Failure,"
prepared to assist with the Defense Department investigation, soldiers
were going to the operating table without morphine or even sedatives.
When one patient demanded medicine, an orderly punched him in the face.
"In addition," the memo went on, "there have been incidents of nurses and
orderlies demanding payment for patient treatment and care," including one
in which "a patient was left unattended after soiling his bed because the
patient or his family could not pay to have the bed cleaned."
A separate presentation, prepared the same month, documented a "loss of
50 pounds" for a policeman named Tajudin after 40 days in the hospital,
accompanied by photos showing the patient's wasted frame.
That month, the mentors prepared a patient bill of rights to enforce
medical standards at the hospital, informing patients that all medical care
should be free and ordering the staff to perform routine checkups. Within
days of the bill's being printed and pasted on hospital walls in December,
the Afghan staff tore the posters down, according to U.S. officials.
Gen. Caldwell visited the hospital again in December. When he inquired
about the soldier to whom he'd awarded a medal, he was shown a
healthier-looking patient, according to a person present. On his way out, a
tearful American captain told the general that this was an impostor. The
real Afghan war hero had died.
By mid-December, Gen. Yaftali, the Afghan army's surgeon-general, was
moved out of his job without explanation—after the coalition's commander
at the time, Gen. David Petraeus, personally raised the problems at the
hospital during a meeting with President Karzai, people familiar with the
The hospital has seen major improvements since then. A surge of coalition
military mentors is helping ensure that Afghan nurses and doctors conduct
regular checkups of patients and provide routine feedings and dressing
changes. There haven't been any documented cases of starvation since
February, American mentors say. In March, Gen. Petraeus brought up the
Dawood hospital in a conversation with reporters, citing it as a success
story of American efforts against Afghan corruption.
There is no public word about where the investigation into Gen. Yaftali
stands, and one U.S. official said record-keeping at the hospital was so
poor it may be difficult to sort out how much was actually stolen. Gen.
Yaftali, who still receives a monthly army salary heavily subsidized by U.S.
taxpayers, said in an interview he expects to be promoted to three-star
Neglect at Afghan Military Hospital - WSJ.com
Not surprising that they would deny this.
If you can't support your own soldiers when they are injured then how do you expect to fight a resistance movement?
Who would want to sign up to the army knowing that when they are injured they have to sell their belongings just to be treated adequetly by the very govenment they are fighting for unless they know certain people in high positions? It's hard enough finding recruits (at least in Pashtun areas) so the government is just shooting itself in the foot when it denies the blatently obvious.
Just shows how incompetent, corrupt & illegitimate this government is. I don't predict it surviving for long with such corruption and self-interst at all levels.
Most of the police/army themselves are corrupt, the whole system from the top to the bottom, from their own military hospitals to the local governors stealing funds from development projects is deeply flawed.
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