- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“Ghost soldiers” collected tens-of-millions of dollars in payments from the Iraqi government before Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi could put a stop to some of the corruption.

Mr. al-Abadi has seen to it that the bank accounts of non-existent troops will no longer see a salary and said that he will track down the officials who profited from the scheme “even if it costs me my life,” The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Senior officials told AP that $47 million alone was saved in November by cutting off the accounts of “ghost soldiers.” The Prime Minister admitted that at least 50,000 accounts were shut down and told a national television audience, “We were paying salaries while we lack the money. […] We have started blowing some big fish out of the water and we’ll go after them until the end,” AP reported.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition to anonymity to AP told the news organization that he believed that the 50,000 “ghost soldiers” cited by the Iraqi government is a low estimate.

“The numbers will be much higher if the investigation includes ghost policemen in the Interior Ministry,” Iraqi lawmaker Liqaa Wardi told AP. “I think that the efforts exerted by the current government will face resistance by some corrupt army and security officers who have made gains and fortunes due to the corruption system and the ghost soldiers.”

The U.S. has conducted airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 8 to aid the Iraqi government as it battles the Islamic State group. American troops are also in the country to train Iraqi security forces, which largely disintegrated as the Islamic State gained territory over the summer. Iraqi’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to the radical Sunni terror organization in June.

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