US And Afghan Forces biometric scanning
John Moore/Staff/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has inherited at least part of the mess that's been a global problem for years. In 2014, news came out about at least 50,000 “ghost soldiers” in Iraq getting paid.

John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, sat down with Sharyl Attkisson of “Full Measure” to explain that the ghost soldier problem is rampant in Afghanistan as well:

"We've been raising this concern about ghosts going back a number of years. Actually, I want to say we heard about it from 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. 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."

Sopko explained a bit about how the scheme worked:

"[It's] 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.' [...]

It's not just the salaries. 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."

Screenshot/Full Measure

In October 2016, Fox News reported it had obtained a letter that Sopko — whom former President Barack Obama appointed — had written that noted how bad the problem was:

“In January 2015 we reported that more than $300 million in annual, U.S.-funded salary payments to the Afghan National Police were based on only partially verified or reconciled data, and that there was no assurance that personnel and payroll data were accurate. We found similar deficiencies during the course of our April 2015 audit of Afghan National Army personnel and payroll data.”

Sopko pulled no punches during his “Full Measure” interview when it came to blame for the problem:

"Who we are holding accountable is the U.S. government for not considering this to be an issue when we raised it three or four years ago, but also not implementing some reforms to ensure that there actually is a soldier on the other end of that pay statement.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, we're talking about, that may be lost."

Attkisson stated that a new biometric system the Pentagon is implementing will be checking fingerprints, photos, and even blood type in order to verify “proof of life” and get rid of the “ghosts.” She added that the Pentagon said it had “up to 95 percent of the Afghan police and 70-80 percent of soldiers” enrolled in the program.

For the record, Sopko has also raised other red flags about Afghanistan:

Watch the entire "Full Measure' interview with Sopko in the video below:

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