Iraq begins inquiry into 'ghost soldiers'

Iraq begins inquiry into 'ghost soldiers'
Parliament's integrity commission says it will investigate revelations that up to 50,000 members of the army either did not exist or were paying commanders to evade duty.
2 min read
03 December, 2014
Local officials said there only 10,000 troops defending Mosul [AFP]

Iraq's parliament has launched a corruption investigation after an inquiry found that officials were drawing the salaries of up to 50,000 "ghost soldiers" registered with the country's army.

Mohammad al-Rubaie, a member of the parliamentary integrity commission, told al-Araby al-Jadeed on Wednesday that a special committee had been formed to investigate the scandal, which was revealed after an initial inquiry ordered by the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi.

"The committee will conduct its investigation and refer it to the judiciary to do its part in holding the guilty accountable," Rubaie said, adding that he believed the integrity investigation would reveal more non-existent soldiers.

Mosul undefended

An anonymous source in the Iraqi government told al-Araby that Abadi had already referred the matter to the judiciary. That has not been confirmed by the prime minister's office.

"Ghost soldiers" are men on the army payroll who pay their officers a portion of their salaries and in return do not show up for duty, enriching their commanders and hollowing out the military force.

The prime minister's spokesman on Monday told the Reuters news agency that figure of 50,000 was revealed "after an intense search through military documents". He added that there would be a field search "in order to put an end to this phenomenon and any other form of corruption".

The scandal of the "ghost soldiers" may explain why Mosul was so easily taken by the Islamic State group. Local officials from the city said it should have been defended in June by 25,000 soldiers and police, but in reality the number was at best 10,000.

Parts of this story have been translated from our Arabic edition.