Pentagon Hopes to Stop Paying for Afghan ‘Ghost Troops’

Large Chunks of Afghan Military Exist Only on Paper

Testifying to the House Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials say they have high hopes to come up with some sort of plan that will allow them to stop paying the salaries of “ghost troops” in Afghanistan by year’s end.

Though talk of corruption within the Afghan military and “ghost troops” has been ongoing for years, last month it was revealed that the problem was far bigger than imagined, and that some 40% of the Afghan military exists only on paper.

And in the payroll. The US is on the hook for most of the huge Afghan military’s funding, at about $5 billion a year, and a good chunk of that is salaries for fictional troops, embezzled by various highly positioned officials. Embezzlement of military wages is common at any rate in corrupt countries like Afghanistan, but so much the better when the troops don’t exist in the first place and can’t really complain about not getting paid.

The Pentagon suggests that some sort of “integrated pay system” might ensure that only real troops get paid, though elaborate US-introduced systems in Afghanistan tend to cost many millions of dollars themselves, and rarely are ever implemented.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of