Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on non-existent ‘ghost soldiers’ and police officers in Afghanistan. Estimates say some 50,000 ghost soldiers were on the payroll. But as soon as President Trump found out about this, he shut it down.
John Sopko is a special inspector general for the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. He recently sat down for an interview with Sharyl Attkinson to discuss the problem. And it was way worse than anyone thought. He said:
“We’ve been raising this concern about ghosts going back a number of years. Actually I want to say we heard about it from (Afghan President) Ashraf Ghani years ago, before he became president, he warned me about ‘ghosts,’ so we started looking three years ago.”
“What we’re talking about are policemen, Afghan policemen, Afghan military, Afghan civil servants who don’t exist or they have multiple identity cards and we’re paying their salaries. By ‘we’ I mean the United States and the international community. And we started finding out that we had no capacity to measure the number of soldiers, teachers, doctors, military people who we are paying their salaries.”
The amount of money spent was around $300 million. Sopko didn’t mince words about what this is:
“[It’s] major fraud. And what’s happening is the commanders or generals or other higher officials are actually pocketing the salaries of the ghosts. And I remember President Ghani again, at that time he wasn’t president, saying, ‘John, you, the United States government, are paying the salary of an Afghan who’s a teacher, he’s a civil servant, he’s a doctor, he is a policeman, and he’s a soldier. And it’s the same Afghan. And he doesn’t exist.’ […]
It’s not just the salaries. But we’re funding schools based upon the number of students, so if you invent or inflate the number of students, you’re going to be paying more money. On the soldiers and the police, we’re paying for extra boots, for food, for everything else, logistics for numbers that don’t exist.”
Sopko said he’s been trying to stop this program since 2016. But no one listened or cared under the Obama Administration.
So when President Trump and his Pentagon were alerted about this costly spending, they took action. They recently implemented a “proof of life” system that will save millions. The biometric system will check photos, fingerprints, and blood type to verify proof of life. Around 95 percent of the Afghan police and 70-80 percent of its soldiers are enrolled already.
You can watch the full report here: