Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars were being wasted paying for the salaries of non-existent soldiers in Afghanistan under the Obama administration.
According to the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, who not long ago had an interview with Sharyl Attkinson of Full Measure, the ongoing problem may have been worse than anyone noticed, but was being addressed by President Donald Trump’s Pentagon.
“We’ve been raising this concern about ghosts going back a number of years,” explained Sopko. “Actually I want to say we heard about it from (Afghan President) Ashraf Ghani years ago, before he became president, he warned me about ‘ghosts,’ so we started looking three years ago.”
“What we’re talking about are policemen, Afghan policemen, Afghan military, Afghan civil servants who don’t exist or they have multiple identity cards and we’re paying their salaries,” he said. “By ‘we’ I mean the United States and the international community. And we started finding out that we had no capacity to measure the number of soldiers, teachers, doctors, military people who we are paying their salaries.”
Asked if this indicated fraud had been taking place, Sopko answered: “Major fraud. And what’s happening is the commanders or generals or other higher officials are actually pocketing the salaries of the ghosts.”
“And I remember President Ghani again, at that time he wasn’t president, saying, ‘John, you the United States government are paying the salary of an Afghan who’s a teacher, he’s a civil servant, he’s a doctor, he is a policeman, and he’s a soldier. And it’s the same Afghan. And he doesn’t exist,’” Sopko described.
“It’s not just the salaries,” he added. “But we’re funding schools based upon the number of students, so if you invent or inflate the number of students, you’re going to be paying more money. On the soldiers and the police, we’re paying for extra boots, for food, for everything else, logistics for numbers that don’t exist.”
Sopko had notified Pentagon on numerous occasions to what he had found out in 2016, but very little was done to address the issue by the administration of President Barack Obama, although Fox News reported that the Pentagon had stated at the time that they would quickly apply certain measures to try and combat the rampant fraud bilking U.S. taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Independent Journal Review reveals that Attkinsson noted that the Pentagon had implemented a biometric system that inspected such things as fingerprints, photographs and even blood type in an effort to acquire “proof of life” of Afghan service members in order to weed out the non-existent “ghosts” that have cost taxpayers a whole lot.
While it is extremely doubtful that any of the taxpayer dollars lost by this fraud will ever be recovered, at least measures have been taken to ensure more dollars aren’t wasted in the apparently never-ending bid to reconstruct Afghanistan.
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