(GPA) Afghanistan – Last week a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter written by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) was released claiming that the nations funding the Afghan security forces could be paying for a force double the size of what actually exists.
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The US alone has spent $68 billion on Afghan security forces since 2002. The US and other partners in Afghanistan are also committed to spending $5 billion a year on security personnel until 2020.
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The letter states that the number of active security personnel reported to the SIGAR by the US command in Afghanistan was 319,595. Yet the inspector was confused by this number and cited a report by the associated press where an Afghan official was quoted as saying the security forces numbered “around 120,000; or less than a third of what is needed to secure the country.”
The most clear example of the inflated troop numbers seems to have come from Helmand province, which by official numbers should have around 26,000 security personnel. Yet according to the police chief in Helmand “40 to 50 percent of the force did not exist physically when we asked for help during operations.” The police chief also stated; seemingly with some confidence that the salaries for these ghost soldiers “had been received during the past eight months and that the money has gone into personal accounts.”
The governor of Helmand; Hayatullah Halat says he has discovered “at least 400” ghost soldiers and has removed them from the payroll lists, but this is only a start it the estimate of 40-50% is true.
It’s not hard to believe that the US allied government in Afghanistan would be pulling off a scheme of this sort. The first president after the US led invasion; Hamid Karzai was accused of all sorts of corruption including taking funds from the CIA and Iran, having family connected to the opium trade, nepotistic hiring and contracting, etc.
Afghanistan has already had monetary aid cut off at times due to suspicions of funds being stolen. Even the current president; Ashraf Ghani said British prime minister David Cameron was correct in saying there was a legacy of corruption in the country.
The issue may not primarily be that Afghanistan is corrupt; plenty of nations are. The issue as it relates to the US and partner nations taxpayers should be that their money is being taken by these corrupt foreign politicians to line their pockets. The US government is the poster child of wasteful spending and this is just another black mark on it’s record.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.