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National Security Desk / May 2, 2017

Ghosts in Afghanistan

Billions of taxpayer dollars have been lost to fraud over the course of the war, as we’ve paid people who don’t exist.

The war in Afghanistan has dragged on now since late 2001, and the U.S. has spent billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and other radical Islamists. This, of course, is an effort to seek justice for 9/11 as well as bring about lasting change and stability to a country that was a safe haven for jihadis. All wars cost money, and unfortunately often waste money, but a recent allegation from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found evidence of a system increasingly plagued with corruption and theft.

One of the more damning assertions is the massive number of what are called “ghost soldiers” — fighters who either don’t exist or are doubles of someone else, yet who are on the U.S. payroll. There are an estimated 30,000 of these Afghan “ghost soldiers” receiving monthly payments. Major General Richard Kaiser is spearheading an effort to crackdown on the fraud and verify the identity of these soldiers. “Step one is knowing who you have, step two is whether they show up for work or not,” he stated. Adding to the challenge is the fact that U.S. oversight over the Afghan army was quite limited under Obama.

Inspector General John Sopko was recently interviewed by Sharyl Attkisson of The Daily Signal. When asked about the existence of fraud, he answered, “Absolutely. 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 [Ashraf] Ghani, 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.’”

The Pentagon is now implementing a new system of biometrics in Afghanistan — it uses fingerprints, photos and blood type to help in cutting down on the problem. This is part of the frustration with leftist spending and budgeting. While the military definitely needs more funding, it also needs to clean up wasteful spending like paying people who don’t exist.

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