- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2014

Iraq’s prime minister said Sunday that an investigation of the military forces revealed 50,000 “ghost soldiers” on the country’s payroll.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s office issued a statement about the massive graft that came with a notification from Parliament saying the payments to the fictitious troops had been cut off, Agence France-Presse reported.

“Over the past few weeks, the PM has been cracking down to expose the ghost soldiers and get to the root of the problem,” Mr. Abadi’s spokesman, Rafid Jaboori, was quoted as saying.

The prime minister’s office said the investigation began within recent months, when the last payments were made, the news agency said, and it included a thorough head count of the country’s soldiers. An anonymous officer told AFP that much of the money was believed to have been siphoned off and included salaries to people who were either never in the military or to soldiers whose deaths had not been reported.

The United States has spent billions of dollars trying to bolster the Iraqi army in the last decade, only to watch the forces crumble this summer amid a blistering offensive from the Islamic State terror group, which now controls about a third of the country.

Mr. Abadi, who took office in September, had pledged to weed out government corruption after his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, held power for eight years and faced increasing criticism on the subject.

• Matthew Cella can be reached at mcella@washingtontimes.com.

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