Afghan Soldiers Likely Killed By Bad Blood, Literally


For more than a year the Afghan military has not tested its new recruits for blood type, which can and likely has proved a fatal oversight when soldiers are injured in combat and are accidentally given the wrong blood in transfusions, according to a new U.S. watchdog report.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction's (SIGAR) Office of Special Projects released the report (PDF) today, saying the Afghanistan National Army halted in-house blood tests in January 2017, instead ordering new recruits to have their tests done by outside doctors at personal expense. The result, the report suggested, is that a number of the 15,000-plus recruits since may have simply skipped the tests and lied upon reporting their blood type. Some doctors are allegedly stamping the forms without conducting the blood tests, SIGAR said.

The ANA stopped doing their own tests, or confirming outside tests, because they lacked supplies and equipment, SIGAR said.

When an injured ANA soldier is in need of emergency medical attention, they often "have no medical documentation associated with their name (apart from the paper record housed at designated ANA facilities) and there is no way to quickly identify their blood type, disease status, or immunization history when they arrive for trauma care," according to a public health officer cited in the SIGAR report.

"He said that ANA soldiers wounded on the battlefield are often given 'combat names,' because there is no official way to link an injured solider with his real identity or medical records," the report says. "Even if blood type is recorded on a soldier’s ID card is correct, this information becomes useless if the soldier loses his card or does not have it in their possession during combat operations."

The report said that an advisor working with the ANA at its recruitment command said 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 [Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan] was able to provide the number of soldiers killed as a result of receiving the wrong type of blood."

Primary Source: Review of the Collection and Procedures for Screening the Blood of ANA Personnel (PDF)

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