Army Gen. allegedly delayed probe into abuse at U.S.-funded Afghan military hospital

House Oversight Subcommittee

House Oversight Subcommittee

(CBS News) Four former U.S. military advisors in Afghanistan testified to Congress Tuesday that the Army general in charge of the NATO Training Mission there tried to delay an investigation into alleged human suffering and corruption at Dawood National Military Hospital, funded primarily with U.S. tax dollars.

The military whistleblowers, two of them still on active duty, say they discovered "Auschwitz"-like atrocities in 2010 at the hospital for wounded Afghan soldiers: open vats of blood draining from soldier's wounds, feces on the floor, and Afghan doctors and nurses demanding bribes to provide patients with food and basic care. According to the witnesses, patients routinely starved to death, were operated on without sedatives, and died of simple infections.

Army Colonel Mark Fassl was NATO's Training Mission Afghanistan Command Inspector General in 2010. He says when he requested the inspector general to investigate the hospital, he was admonished by the three-star general in charge, Lt. General William Caldwell.

"His first response to me was 'how could we make that request with elections coming?'" Fassl told a House oversight subcommittee Tuesday.

Another advisor in Afghanistan, Col. Gerald Carozza, says Caldwell's deputy delivered a similar message: that the general was upset that Fassl had asked for an independent investigation "so close to the (2010 midterm) election."

"We were to consider postponing it until afterwards," Carozza testified. "It was a stunning moment for me."

Fassl says he followed orders to take back his request for an investigation. But U.S. advisors began documenting the horrors and eventually blew the whistle to and Congress.

Now the inspector general is investigating allegations against Caldwell. A spokesman for Caldwell says he would "welcome the opportunity to respond to any inquiry" and that "all allegations will be proven false." Meantime, the Pentagon says strong actions have been taken to correct corruption, mismanagement and abuse at Dawood Hospital and by all accounts, conditions have improved dramatically.

"I would point out that some of the problems we saw at the hospital have in fact been resolved, corrective measures have been taken and patient care was improved as a result," Pentagon spokesman George Little said Tuesday.

Meantime, the witnesses told Congress the story is reflective of rampant, out of control corruption in Afghanistan where billions of U.S. tax dollars have been spent.

Col. Schuyler Geller, the former Command Surgeon of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, told Congress there's still a lack of accountability at Dawood Hospital. Doctors and nurses who committed "unspeakable" acts still "walk the halls of the hospital, unrepentant, unscathed and unprosecuted," he told Congress.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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