Iraq government combats ‘ghost soldier’ corruption

The Associated Press reports: The Iraqi government has identified and stopped payment of tens of millions of dollars in salaries previously disbursed to nonexistent troops, known here as “ghost soldiers,” as part of the prime minister’s vow to tackle corruption in the military and regain a foothold in the battle against the Islamic State group, two senior government officials said.

The initiative is part of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s plan to rebuild the U.S.-trained military which crumbled in the face of last summer’s onslaught by Islamic State militants.

Al-Abadi recently purged the military and interior ministry from a number of senior officials who were appointees of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki. While it is unclear whether any of the sacked officials are among those accused of collecting misappropriated funds, al-Abadi vowed to pursue the sensitive matter “even if it costs me my life.”

According to the two senior officials, authorities prevented the loss of over $47 million of improper military spending in November, mostly from salaries that were previously paid to soldiers who are dead, missing or did not exist and which were pocketed by senior commanders. The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media, said the money was the first of several tranches of funding to be regained by Iraq’s Defense Ministry. [Continue reading…]

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