As the Taliban probes the strength of Afghan forces, they are finding it an easier task than anticipated with a sizable number of the Afghan force constituted of “ghost soldiers.” As much as half of the soldiers in frontline positions are missing. We previously discussed the same problem of “ghost soldiers” in Iraq who are paid soldiers but only exist on paper as part of the widespread corruption of that country. The Taliban are finding forward positions with only half of the troops claimed on paper. Something tells me that these same Afghan officers and officials will claim that, while the real soldiers perished at their under-manned outposts, their “ghost soldiers” somehow miraculously survived and will continue to fight . . . and draw pay.
Now, after pocketing money for years, Afghan officials are calling forth nonexistent soldiers to defend their country — a perfect embodiment of the hopes of a country betrayed by its own leaders.
Senior policy and army officials have left their country in peril due to their insatiable greed. It turns out that the Taliban uses real soldiers. Estimates put the percentage of nonexistent soldiers at 40 percent of the Afghan army, a shocking level of corruption even for Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, a ghost army did not fare well and the Taliban has now seized some 65 percent of Helmand province — Afghanistan’s largest. The provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, could fall.
We have been discussing for years how the United States tolerated and even fostered corruption in Afghanistan. I have previously written about the waste of billions of dollars by the government without any significant discipline of government officials. We have become accustomed to reports of unimaginable corruption and waste in Afghanistan from bags of money delivered to officials to constructing huge buildings immediately torn down to buying aircraft that cannot be used to buildings that seem to “melt away”. Much like our useless campaign against poppy production where we continued to spend billions because no one had the courage to end or change the program.
What I am waiting for is the slew of family and funeral expense claims for “ghost soldiers” killed in the offensive by these same corrupt Afghan officers and officials.