While Afghan patients at the U.S. military's “crown jewel” medical facility in Kabul lived in horrific conditions, American and Afghan commanders pushed a relentless public relations campaign to make it look like a success. Warning: Extremely graphic content.
Top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan waged a sophisticated public relations campaign to obscure horrific conditions at the Afghan National Military Hospital, according to former U.S. military officials, Congressional investigators, and new photographic evidence obtained by BuzzFeed.
The revelation is just one of the new details uncovered in a probe that has already triggered two Department of Defense investigations and one hearing by the House's Government Oversight Committee.
BuzzFeed obtained more than 70 images and over 120 field reports and documents that further implicate the command of Gen. William Caldwell in the scandal.
At the time, Caldwell was in charge of NTM-A, or National Training Mission Afghanistan, the $11.2 billion a year program, which included the Dawood National Military Hospital.
"There were glowing stories on NTM-A’s public relations web site about the progress of the [Afghan National Army] medical system," Col. Gerald Carozza, a senior Army lawyer, testified. "With conditions not changing from 2005 to 2010, why did the assessment and public relations reporting show improvement though early 2010 when the reality was clearly different?"
The new information also reveals fresh evidence of neglect at the hospital, possible corruption perpetrated by private Pentagon contractor MPRI, and allegations that top Afghan general Ahmed Yaftali sold 4.5 tons of U.S-purchased medical supplies to Pakistan and embezzled some $20 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars provided to the hospital.
Other documents obtained by BuzzFeed include new details on the Pentagon's efforts to stonewall the investigation — including attempts to keep key details from Congress and efforts to make witnesses unavailable to testify.
Caldwell, now commander of U.S. Army North, has not yet been called before Congress, but a spokesperson for Caldwell has said "all allegations will be proven false."
The images below show the striking contrast between what the U.S. military command in Kabul wanted American audiences to know and the much darker reality of the Dawood National Military Hospital.
"Although the hospital is still undermanned, patient care has improved with the help of additional equipment and capabilities," reads the official U.S. military photo description from early 2010.
Gen. Ahmed Yaftali (left), Afghan surgeon general, with Gen. William Caldwell (right) at Dawood. February 2010.
When senior U.S. officials and dignitaries visited the National Military Hospital, they were given what Col. Geller called "the dog and pony show" or "the wet mop tour."
June 25, 2010