Audit: Afghan Doctors Kill Soldiers in Botched Transfusions with Wrong Blood Type

A wounded Afghan soldier in hospital in Mazar-i-Sharif on April 22, 2017, following a bloody Taliban attack on an army base
AFP FARSHAD USYAN

Inaccurate collecting, screening, and recording of blood samples by the Afghan National Army (ANA) resulted in the death of an unknown number of soldiers who received the wrong type of blood when injured in combat, revealed a watchdog agency.

The agency added that potential exposure to infectious diseases could affect U.S. trainers and advisers.

In a recently published audit, the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, found:

DOD officials we spoke with, the ANA does not have an official system of record that tracks the medical data of new recruits. As a result, the Afghan government does not know which soldiers have been blood-typed or screened for infectious diseases. This information is critically important because successful blood transfusions for wounded soldiers require that donated blood be the appropriate type and free from infectious diseases. Lastly, we found that the ANA’s overall medical record keeping is unreliable and often inaccurate.

An advisor assisting ANA personnel at ANAREC [Afghan National Army Recruiting Command] told us that he was aware that ANA soldiers have been killed from receiving the wrong type of blood when injured in combat. However, neither he nor CSTC-A [U.S.-NATO’s Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan] was able to provide the number of soldiers killed as a result of receiving the wrong type of blood.

U.S.-NATO’s CSTC-A is charged with training, advising, and assisting the Afghan soldiers in military medical care.

Officials from the U.S. transition command concurred with SIGAR’s revelations and vowed to rectify the severe shortcomings, but the Afghan Ministry of Defense reportedly rejected the findings.

SIGAR cautions that a lack of a complete and accurate data on blood types and unreliable screening for infectious diseases “put both soldiers and military readiness at risk.”

Afghan army officers have failed to screen the blood of 15,400 recruits (about 10 percent of the estimated 171,510 active duty soldiers ), allowing thousands of unscreened service members to mingle with other soldiers potentially exposing many of them, including their American advisors, to infectious diseases, SIGAR suggests.

In total, 77,178 (45 percent) of the 171,510 active Afghan do not have their blood type recorded in the computerized database Afghan Human Resource Information System (AHRIMS), rendering the program unreliable.

Despite the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on developing the ANA, a component of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), problems, such as inaccurate medical records persist.

Of the total $122 billion the United States has spent on nation-building in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001, the United States has devoted an estimated $75 billion (60 percent) to developing the ANDSF, which also includes police units.

The Afghan army claims it lacks enough supplies and equipment to collect and record the blood type of the recruits.

The U.S.-NATO transition command already provides hundreds of millions of dollars for procuring medical equipment and supplies for testing blood. In 2017 alone, the U.S.-NATO CSTC-A mission awarded $165 million to procure medical supplies.

Corruption is rampant at all levels of the Afghan government.

According to SIGAR, Kabul is squandering billions of the nearly $1 trillion in American taxpayer dollars spent on the war since it started on October 7, 2001.

Instead of procuring the equipment, the officers referred the soldiers to “unaffiliated” or unvetted local physicians to get tested and pay for the cost out of their pocket without reimbursement, which is one of the reasons that prompted SIGAR to conduct the audit.

The Afghan army has been sending their recruits to unreliable local doctors for their blood tests since January 2017.

SIGAR learned from a source that the doctors used by the Afghan National Army were taking the money without conducting tests or accurately recording the results.

John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, wrote:

During the course of our review, we received additional information from an [Afghan army] advisor, confirming initial concerns, that physicians may be stamping medical forms without actually collecting and testing blood samples, or without conducting any medical examinations

SIGAR suspects that the even the computerized database records are useless, noting that widespread illiteracy, lack of technical skills related to using computer systems, internet access, and no institutional knowledge among ANA personnel result in inaccurate medical data being entered in the computerized database, rendering the program unreliable.

Afghan Army recruits are expected to receive several blood tests intended to identify blood type and infectious disease status, which typically includes screening for hepatitis B and C, venereal diseases, and HIV.

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