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Ex-Afghan Finance Minister Says Country's Top Brass Pocketed the Salaries of Untold 'Ghost Soldiers'

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The corruption in the Afghan armed forces was so deep, its army was little more than an illusion, according to the former finance minister of Afghanistan.

America invested millions of tax dollars in training and equipping the Afghan army, which melted away in the final days of the Taliban’s lightning campaign that conquered much of the country and captured Kabul without a fight.

The extent to which the Biden administration was fooled was shown in a July 23 phone call between President Joe Biden and Afghan then-President Ashraf Ghani, according to The Hill.

“You clearly have the best military,” Biden said then. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000, and they’re clearly capable of fighting well.”

Khalid Payenda, the former finance minister of Afghanistan, said although the rosters of Afghan units claimed there were 300,000 troops and police ready to defend the country, most of those troops did not exist, according to the BBC.

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The phantom troops were needed to line the pockets of generals who collected a cut of the wages paid to soldiers that did not exist, he said.

“The way the accountability was done, you would ask the chief in that province how many people you have and based on that you could calculate salaries and ration expenses, and they would always be inflated,” he said.

His best guess was that the troop numbers advertised may have been six times greater than reality.

Rosters included “desertions [and] martyrs who were never accounted for because some of the commanders would keep their bank cards” and use them to get the wages the soldiers would have claimed, he said.

Should America have trusted the word of these officials without researching it themselves?

The 2016 US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report indicated that the true strength of the Afghan forces was murky and that “neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist, how many are in fact available for duty or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities.”

At the time, officials in Helmand Province estimated 40 percent of the troops supposedly there did not exist, according to The Guardian.

Despite this, nothing changed. An August update from SIGAR that came as the Afghan regime was teetering through its final days noted that the existence of “ghost soldiers” who existed only on paper was a significant concern, BBC reported.

Payenda said that not only was there a phantom force, the men who did serve were often not paid.

Meanwhile, he claimed, many leaders of militia groups supposedly loyal to the government took money from the government and the Taliban, according to BBC.

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Corruption was simply so rooted in the Afghan system it could not be eliminated, he said.

“The whole feeling was, we cannot change this. This is how the parliament works, this is how the governors work. Everybody would say the stream is murky from the very top, meaning the very top is involved in this,” he said.

However, Payenda said he did not believe Ghani was “financially corrupt”.

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at jackwritings1@gmail.com.
Location
New York City
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Foreign Policy, Military & Defense Issues




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