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Iraqi Prime Minister says Iraqi Army has more than 50,000 ghost soldiers on it’s payroll

December 1, 2014  |  Posted by: Giovanni DePhillips
Iraqi Prime Minister says Iraqi Army has more than 50,000 ghost soldiers on it’s payroll Image courtesy of defense.gov

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On Sunday, Iraq’s Prime Minister said  that the country’s army has been paying salaries to at least 50,000 soldiers who do not exist.

The announcement highlights the vastness of corruption that has plagued Iraq and further damages U.S. hopes of relying on the army to defeat ISIS.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the country’s Parliament that the discovery was revealed as part of an internal investigation by the new Iraqi PM, and further investigations would likely show “more and more” false names.

“Ghost” soldiers are members of the armed forces, who pay off their commanders with a portion of their salaries, paid for by American taxpayer dollars, so they don’t have to man their posts.

“Only by checking paperwork, I managed during this month to eliminate 50,000 ghost soldiers in four Iraqi army divisions,” Haider al-Abadi said. Lawmakers erupted in shouts at his announcement.

Investigators are looking for additional cases, and al-Abadi expects many more to turn up.

“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,” he said.

The Prime Minister vowed to punish those responsible.

The Post reported that an entry level soldier in the Iraqi army receives a salary of $600 per month.

If the 50,000 figure is accurate, the “ghost soldiers” are costing Iraq’s treasury at least $350 million per year.

But that number could be scratching the surface, Iraqi officials say that the true number of false names is most likely far greater than al-Abadi reported.

“It could be more than triple this number,” Hamid al-Mutlaq, told the Post. “The people who are responsible for this should be punished. Iraq’s safe has been emptied.”

Under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, widespread corruption was well documented and was in fact the cause of the collapse of four divisions this summer in the face of an Islamic State offensive that overran Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.

The Pentagon has requested $1.2 billion from Congress to better train and equip Iraq’s army to defeat the militants.

U.S. officials told the Post earlier this week that the military hoped to build up nine new brigades that could work with Kurdish and Shiite fighters against the Islamic State.

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