Corruption Fuels Afghan Losses in Helmand

'Ghost Troops' Leaving Many Battalions Short on Fighters

Recent Taliban gains in Helmand Province have come in spite of an apparent significant numerical advantage among Afghan forces. It turns out that those numbers were simply not true, and indicative of ongoing struggles with the Afghan military.

Corruption’s been a problem for the Afghan military for a long time, and the “ghost troops” issue is apparently still looming large, with Helmand MPs saying that in some cases, battalions of 400 troops have only about 150 real troops. Commanders often invent fictional troops to embezzle their pay.

The chain of command also doesn’t work great, with local commanders basically running the whole show, and in many cases unwilling to commit their troops to battles going on in other regions. As one noted, he got no reinforcements when he called, so “why should we help them?”

Bankrolled by NATO nations, the Afghan military is proving to be just another cash sink, with politically connected figures getting positions of leadership and using them to leech as much money out as possible. Fighting the Taliban is an afterthought.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.