John Sopko, the U.S. Government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction or SIGAR, warned about the millions of dollars being used by the Afghan military for its non-existent workforce, also known as ghost soldiers. Aside from duping NATO and the U.S. from paying these fictional individuals, the phenomenon of ghost soldiers is also affecting the way the Afghan military is fighting the Taliban.
As noted by Sopko, the ghost soldiers within the ranks of Afghanistan’s military force have existed for years now. He explained that in order to gain substantial funding from NATO, majority of which comes from the U.S. and the country’s tax payers, military commanders in Afghanistan fill their battalions with fictitious names. The salaries that were supposed to go to these non-existent soldiers are then pocketed by the commanders, according to The Anti Media.
Sopko warned that this level of corruption within the Afghan military has reached a point where aside from ghost soldiers, U.S. taxpayers are paying for the salaries of fictional government officials, teachers, police officers and other public servants. Although it is not yet clear how much the U.S. and NATO are spending to support this, Sopko noted that there about tens of thousands of ghost employees and soldiers in Afghanistan, amounting to about $300 million in salaries.
Aside from wasting resources, this corrupt system is also significantly affecting the Afghanistan government’s operations against Taliban forces. Since the country’s military ranks are occupied by ghost soldiers, the statistics showing the number of troops patrolling and defending certain regions are inaccurate.
Moreover, it was previously believed that government troops outnumber Taliban forces in Afghanistan. However, due to the phenomenon of ghost soldiers, it could actually be the other way around.
As for the Afghanistan government, Sopko noted that officials in the country are still not doing anything to resolve this issue.