The Ministry of Defense on Saturday rejected a report by a top US watchdog on the existence of “ghost soldiers” – nonexistent personnel – in the structure of the Afghan National Army, saying more than 99 members of the Army have been recognized by the biometric system.
In a report to the US Congress on July 30, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the number of ANDSF troops fell by nearly 42,000 compared to the same period last year.
The report said that this quarter’s ANDSF strength decreased by 41,777 personnel since approximately the same period in 2018, and by 50,277 compared to about the same period in 2017.
According to the report, there are 180,869 Afghan National Army (ANA) and 91,596 Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel enrolled and accounted for in APPS as of May 25, 2019.
This is roughly 10,000 ANA fewer and 25,000 ANP fewer than the numbers reported to SIGAR last quarter.80 This quarter’s strength of 272,465 puts the ANDSF at 77.4%, and 79,535 personnel short, of its goal strength of 352,000.81, the report added.
Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said that at least 100 percent of Afghan National Army personnel have “physical presence” on their duties and that those who were involved in corruption are under investigation by the ministry.
“There is no ‘ghost soldier’ in the ranks of the Afghan National Army,” Ahmadzai told reporters. “SIGAR has not contacted the Ministry of Defense when it made the report and it has not asked for information from the Ministry of Defense.”
Critics and some MPs said those who have been involved in creating “ghost soldiers” should be taken accountable.
“A big amount of money has been embezzled [by creation of nonexistent personnel] among the Afghan security forces… It will be a big mistake if such individuals are not taken accountable,” said Nadir Baloch, a Senator.
“Those who are responsible [for creation of ghost soldiers] should be punished,” said Mir Haidar Afzali, head of the Defense Commission of the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of Parliament.
This comes as the Afghan forces are fighting the Taliban and other militant groups in more than 20 provinces. Casualties among the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have also increased in recent years.
“This is the main reason behind casualties [among Afghan forces]. The creation of the 40,000 [nonexistent] soldiers, the selling of their weapons ultimately resulted in the killing of 45,000 soldiers,” military affairs analyst Atiqullah Amarkhail said.