By Russ Read
Nearly half of the police force in the contentious Helmand province in Afghanistan does not actually exist, yet the U.S. continues to spend billions to fund it.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior is poised to conduct an investigation of former police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang for creating so-called “Ghost Police.” His replacement has referred to the abuse of power as an act of treason. The Afghan police force has been actively funded by the U.S. to the tune of $15 billion since 2002.
“There are around 10,000 police personnel in the structure of police force in Helmand plus 16,000 army soldiers along with public protection forces and border security forces,” said Agha Noor Kintoz, the new Helmand police chief, to Afghanistan’s TOLO news. “According to my information, 40 to 50 percent of the force did not exist physically when we asked for help during operations. Salaries of ghost soldiers had been received during the past eight months and the money has gone to personal accounts.”
The salaries, equipment and weapons meant for Afghan police have instead been transferred to “mafia groups” and “local lawbreakers,” according to Afghan Senator Akhundzada Alokozai.
Kintoz’s report comes at a precarious time for Helmand province. Taliban forces control at least one-third of the province, and are believed to be active in half of its districts. The radical Islamic group has been engaging in an offensive in the province since the early spring. Officials from both the Afghan government and U.S.-led coalition predict that the fight for Helmand will only intensify as the weather in the region continues to get warmer.
A report from the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has said the problem with corruption in the Afghan government has become systemic.
“Although the U.S. is more outspoken today about corruption in Afghanistan, the performance of many of the anti-corruption bodies established with U.S. support over the past decade has been disappointing,” said John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, in a March speech to students at the University of Pittsburgh. “I would submit to you that nothing is a greater threat to the United States’ efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and other countries like it.”