The governor of the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand, the largest in the country, claims to have discovered at least 400 “ghost soldiers” on the province payroll, reports TOLO News.
According to TOLO, the Afghan governor’s allegation “follows a few months after rumors surfaced about the existence of thousands of ‘ghost soldiers’ on the payroll within the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), something that sparked great controversy in the country.”
Hayatullah Hayat, the governor of Helmand province, said the 400 “ghost soldiers” were once again found within the ranks of the of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes army and police units. The ANDSF is also known as the ANSF.
“We are planning systematic changes in the ranks of the police forces. Our assessments indicate that there are ghost soldiers within the ranks of the security forces in Helmand. So far we have discovered at least 400 and scrapped them from the list,” Hayat said.
Governor Hayat’s allegations come as the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani vows to use biometrics to verify the existence of every member of the ANDSF.
Asked during a press conference Tuesday what he will do to guarantee that international funding provided to Afghanistan will not go to waste, Ghani responded: “Every soldier and every police officer — every police man and woman will be verified… based on the biometrics. We will be sure that yes, they exist… [and that] they can serve at the highest level of the Afghanistan national defense security forces.”
The president promised that Afghanistan will also ensure that competent individuals are admitted into the Afghan security forces.
At the end of April, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported that Washington and Kabul have no idea how many ANDSF members “actually exist,” which members are available for duty, and whether they are truly capable of defending their own country.
The Helmand governor also announced the second phase of Afghanistan’s Operation Khanjar 13 aimed at defeating the insurgents located across the country.
Hayat said, ”The second phase of Operation Khanjar 13 will soon commence. We will target vulnerable areas in this operation.”
The Helmand provincial council has urged the ANDSF to push the Taliban out of their region, which has historically been an opium-rich stronghold for the terrorist group.
Residents in the province have also pledged to support the security forces in their struggle against the militants, [who have been killing both security forces and civilians in Helmand].
This comes at a time when Afghan forces are struggling to man the front lines against a rising Taliban insurgency in the war riven country. This is in part because of untold numbers of ‘ghost’ troops who are paid salaries but only exist on paper.
In April 2015, SIGAR warned that inaccurate and unreliable data on Afghan security personnel may place U.S. security and billions of American taxpayer funds at risk.