Afghan forces struggle as ranks thinned by ‘ghost’ soldiers

The Associated Press reports: Afghan forces are struggling to man the front lines against a resurgent Taliban, in part because of untold numbers of “ghost” troops who are paid salaries but only exist on paper.

The nationwide problem has been particularly severe in the southern Helmand province, where the Taliban have seized vast tracts of territory in the 12 months since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission and switched to training and support.

“At checkpoints where 20 soldiers should be present, there are only eight or 10,” said Karim Atal, head of Helmand’s provincial council. “It’s because some people are getting paid a salary but not doing the job because they are related to someone important, like a local warlord.”

In some cases, the “ghost” designation is more literal — dead soldiers and police remain on the books, with senior police or army officials pocketing their salaries without replacing them, Atal said. [Continue reading…]

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