[Photo via AP Images]

Afghan Forces ‘Haunted’ By Ghost Troops

Afghan forces struggle on the front lines against resurgent Taliban forces in Kandahar Afghanistan, the AP reports.

The Taliban has recently seized large portions of territory in the southern Helmand province of the Middle Eastern country. It’s been a year since the U.S. and NATO ended their combat mission in the area and switched to a more supportive role by training troops.

The reason for the Afghan Forces decline is due to “Ghost Soldiers.” These “ghosts” are soldiers who were reported being on duty. However, when checked on, they are no where to be found.

“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,”

said Karim Atal, head of Helmand’s provincial council, as reported by the AP.

On the contrary, the “ghost” term refers to a more haunting use of the term. Sometimes dead soldiers and police remain on the Afghan forces records. As a result, payouts are still made, but they are collected by senior police or army officials without replacing the salaries, Atal stated.

Atal estimates that a whopping 40 percent of registered forces don’t exist. This lack of manpower has only helped the Taliban because the reinforcements are not sent to back up the Afghan Forces–they aren’t sent because on paper, they are already there.

[Photo via AP Images]
[Photo via AP Images]
The Taliban has seized 65 percent of the province from the Afghan forces so far. More importantly, the capital of the provincial Lashkar Gah, is under fire as the Taliban continues their onslaught. The actual number for police killed is about 700 accompanied with 500 wounded, Atal said.

Last year, the Taliban seized the northern city of Kunduz for three days. This was their biggest capture of a large urban area since 9/11.

Helmand’s former deputy police chief, Pacha Gul Bakhtiar, said the province has 31,000 police officers on file, “but in reality it is nowhere near that.”

For nearly 15 years, after the U.S.-led joint operation with Afghan Forces against the Taliban, officials have been under the impression that Afghanistan was well on its path to democratic reform.

This includes billions of dollars in military aid and loaning U.S. troops for this effort. However, corruption within the Afghanistan government has lead to the insurgent of the Taliban due to the “ghost troops.”

The Defense Ministry could not be reached for comment on the misleading ghost security forces, which have cost American and the Afghan Forces their life. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi only acknowledged the problem and said that an investigation has been launched. The results of said investigation could take some time, Sediqqi said.

“If you have a roll of 100 people, not all of them will be there 100 percent of the time – there is leave, training, and we take casualties. And it takes time to replace them,” Sediqqi said. Sediqqi also added that all Afghan forces were being paid by “trusted agents.”

Pakistan will host a diplomatic discussion with Afghanistan, China, and the United States tomorrow to address engaging with a peace talk with the Taliban to help alleviate the issue altogether.

Afghanistan is not alone with this ghost soldier phenomenon, however. Iraqi forces has had similar issues against Islamic State. ISIS operates similar to the Taliban with their rapid conquest strategies.

The casualties of the ISIS fight proved to be to overwhelming to keep up with. Officials said that “tens of millions of dollars in salaries to nonexistent forces had been halted.”

This still does not excuse the Afghan ghost soldier epidemic however. Lawmaker, Ghulam Hussain Nasiri, who has been researching the problem for more than a year, said his government is pushing the issue to the side.

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“Everyone knows that we are facing this fight alongside ‘ghost’ soldiers, and that’s the reason we don’t have enough men,” he said. “The Taliban know it, too. When they attack us, and we’re unable to protect ourselves, the big men then ask why.”

“When we say we have 100 soldiers on the battlefield, in reality it is just 30 or 40. And this creates the potential for huge catastrophes when the enemy attacks,” he said.

One Helmand district soldier, Mohammad Islam spoke the Associated Press on the issue. He said that Afghan forces are aware of the missing ghost soldiers and it’s causing them there lives at this point.

“Everyone knows that we are facing this fight alongside ‘ghost’ soldiers, and that’s the reason we don’t have enough men,” he said. “The Taliban know it, too. When they attack us, and we’re unable to protect ourselves, the big men then ask why.”

What do you think? Is there massive corruption going on within the Afghani Military? Are they a threat to the lives of Afghan Forces as well?

[Photo via AP Images]

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