The presence of "ghost soldiers" in the Afghan Army is causing a major headache for Washington and Kabul administrators, as thousands of troops exist only on paper and are not available on the field to fight militants.
In a recent quarterly assessment report to the US Congress, it was revealed that neither the US nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan security officials exist and how many, in fact, are available for duty.
The report, which covers the first three months of 2016, has been compiled by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and submitted to the US Congress for debate.
Special Inspector General John F. Sopko said, "The reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is in a perilous state. Afghanistan has had the lead responsibility for its own security for more than a year now, and is struggling with a four-season insurgency, high attrition, and capability challenges."
He also added that Afghan troops remain reluctant to pursue the Taliban into their traditional safe havens, because of low morale and capabilities issues.
The report also said many officers were involved in drug smuggling.
The report stated, "The Taliban receive intelligence from the bases, and attack when the soldiers are under the influence of drugs."
In Marjah, where 15,000 coalition troops staged Operation Moshtarak - one of the largest offensives of the entire war - the Taliban controlled 80 percent of the territory.
From the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), 6,637 personnel were killed and 12,471 were wounded in 2015, while more than 2,000 additional casualties occurred in the first two months of 2016. Testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee in February, General Campbell, the last commander of ISAF, said the ANDSF still suffers from capability gaps in aviation, combined-arms operations and military intelligence.
According to the official report, this isn’t the first time the issue of Ghost Troops was highlighted.
Ghost troops a chronic issue
In 2011, a SIGAR audit of ANP personnel systems found that various sources of personnel data showed the total numbers of ANP personnel ranged from 111,774 to 125,218 - a division-sized discrepancy of 13,444 personnel.
This year the United States contributed $4.1 billion and - even with US funding of this magnitude - SIGAR’s work shows that the ANDSF is unable to sustain itself in many areas.