Officials in Iraq are blaming ghost soldiers for weakening their military forces. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi estimates up to 50,000 army soldiers continued to collect their salary despite the fact that they failed to report for duty. In addition to wasting financial resources, the Iraqi ghost soldiers are blamed for crippling the country’s defense.
In June, Islamic State militants overcame and occupied the city of Mosul. Although 25,000 Iraqi soldiers were dispatched to the scene, fewer than 10,000 reported for duty. Mosul officials said the militants easily overtook the city, as there was little resistance.
Spokesman Rafid Jaburi said Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is dedicated to identifying the ghost soldiers and eliminating other sources of corruption.
“Those 50,000 soldiers were revealed after an intense search through military documents and there will be a field search in order to put an end to this phenomenon and any other form of corruption.”
Amid the scandal, the prime minister dismissed and replaced more than 20 senior Interior Ministry officials. Al-Abadi, who took office in September, said he is committed to strengthening military forces. His primary objective is to build an army which is “more effective in confronting terrorism.” As reported by Reuters, Islamic State militants currently “control much of the north and west of the country.”
The United States military spent billions of dollars in an attempt to strengthen Iraqi security forces. However, U.S. troops withdrew from the troubled country in 2011. Although the United States provided essential training and weapons, the Iraqi army continues to struggle against Islamic State militants.
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said Iraqi ghost soldiers have only compounded the issue.
“I feel sad that all that time we were paying salaries, and we don’t have money, while other soldiers are fighting and getting killed, and some soldiers are getting paid without appearing.”
As reported by CNN, al-Abadi has vowed to identify the ghost soldiers and those responsible for monitoring their service records. The prime minister said the soldiers and their superiors will face punishment for their failure to comply.
Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said it will take a lot of time and effort. However, “the military has to be cleaned of all these numbers, figures of ghost soldiers, and other mismanagement.”
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is confident that his efforts, including the identification of Iraqi ghost soldiers, will make it possible to organize military forces and strengthen the country’s defense against terrorist sects.
[Image via Defense.gov]