(CBS News) Congressional investigators and observers in the U.S. military allege that injured Afghan soldiers at Dawood National Military Hospital routinely died of simple infections and were allegedly even starved to death as Afghan doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food and basic care. Congressional investigators and the Inspector General are looking into whether some military officials took steps to cover up investigations into the hospital's conditions.
At least $180 million was spent by the U.S. government on the hospital over nine years, according to congressional investigators.
U.S. officials began documenting rampant corruption at the hospital as far back as 2006 including stolen pharmaceuticals and counterfeit medicine being used on Afghan soldiers. By 2010, military officials on site began documenting maggots on open wounds, patients starved for weeks, surgery performed with no sedatives and bedsores so deep that bones showed through.
Several military whistleblowers have told congressional investigators that some military higher-ups, including Lt. General William Caldwell, took steps to delay investigations into the hospital in 2010 because it might prove politically embarrassing. The Pentagon didn't comment on behalf of Lt. Gen. Caldwell, stating "we do not comment on matters currently being investigated by the Inspector General."
Among the witnesses scheduled to testify Tuesday at a House Oversight Committee hearing is Schulyer Geller, who is the former Command Surgeon for the NATO Training Mission. According to his written testimony, Geller will tell the committee that when he was questioned in 2011 as to whether there was any reason to believe Lt. Gen. Caldwell delayed the investigations, he replied "Any reason to believe? I know it for a fact." Geller also plans to testify about the allegedly broad web of corruption in Afghanistan that he says U.S. officials have not been able to effectively penetrate.
After a Wall Street Journal report exposed issues at Dawood Hospital last year, congressional investigators say Gen. David Petraeus personally raised the subject with Afghan President Hamid Karzai last December and, by all accounts, conditions have drastically improved.
A Pentagon spokesman told CBS News today: "Regarding the issues of corruption, mismanagement, and abuse at the hospital... a number of strong and effective actions have been taken by U.S. advisors and the Afghan government to correct them. We do consider this to be a serious issue, and the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan took immediate actions when conditions were discovered November 2010." An Inspector General's initial report on the issue can be found here.
"Since a leadership change was made at the hospital, strong corrective actions have been taken to improve safety, patient care, and logistics and supply management," says a Pentagon spokesman... (A)dvisors continue to monitor the conditions at the hospital and work with Afghan National Security Forces to ensure progress continues."