Afghan Police: Up to Half of U.S.-Funded Afghan Troops in Helmand ‘Do Not Exist’

Afghan army soldiers patrol in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province.
Noor Mohammad/AFP/Getty Images

Up to half of the tens of thousands of U.S.-funded Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) troops deployed to combat terrorism in southern Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province “do not exist,” notes a U.S. watchdog agency appointed by Congress, citing the province’s police chief.

Nevertheless, all Afghan security forces are getting paid with U.S. taxpayer funds, including the nonexistent ones.

In an August 5 letter addressed to the U.S. Secretary of Defense and published on Friday, which marked the 15th year of the Afghanistan war, the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the watchdog, highlighted the problems of “ghost” service members within the ANDSF.

Overall, the letter suggested that of the 319,595 members of the ANDSF, which includes police and army units, nearly 200,000 do not exist.

In Helmand alone, a longtime Taliban stronghold that is considered one of the deadliest places for U.S.-led coalition forces, up to half of the 26,000 ANDSF troops assigned to the province are “ghost” service members, the provincial police chief declared earlier this year.

“There are around 10,000 police personnel in the structure of police force in Helmand plus 16,000 army soldiers along with public protection forces and border security forces. According to my information, 40 to 50 percent of the force did not exist physically when we asked for help during operations,” he explained. “Salaries of ghost soldiers had been received during the past eight months and the money has gone to personal accounts.”

Furthermore, the governor of Helmand also noted that “there are ghost soldiers within the security forces in Helmand” and that officials there have “discovered at least 400 and scrapped them from the list.”

In April 2015, SIGAR reported that Inaccurate and unreliable data on Afghan security personnel may place America’s security and billions of U.S. taxpayer funds at risk, adding that the United States has spent nearly $70 billion to recruit, train, equip, house, feed, supply, and pay the salaries” of the ANDSF, including those of “hollow” Afghan brigades that do not really exist.

The Pentagon refused to comment on whether the Obama administration is concerned about “ghost” Afghan troops receiving U.S. taxpayer funds, jeopardizing U.S. gains, and placing American military troops at risk. It would not say whether any American troops have been killed our wounded after going into battle with nonexistent backing.

The lives of U.S. and Afghan troops may be endangered when they are sent on missions with Afghan soldiers who turn out to be “ghosts.”

The Associated Press (AP) noted earlier this year, “The heaviest cost of the ghost soldier phenomenon is being exacted on the battlefield.”

President Barack Obama has withdrawn the majority of U.S. military troops from Afghanistan, driving American troops to increase their reliance on their Afghan counterparts.

For over a year, SIGAR has noted that the Obama administration is clueless about how many ANDSF troops “actually exist.”


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