IG: US may be paying ‘ghost workers’ in Afghan police force

The U.S. military might be paying the salaries of “ghost workers” in the Afghanistan police force, the U.S. watchdog in Afghanistan said Wednesday.

“I am writing to express my concern that the U.S. may be unwittingly helping to pay the salaries of non-existent members of the Afghan National Police (ANP),” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), said in a letter to three commanders in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

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“The possibility of ‘ghost workers’ on the ANP payroll came up several times in the course of my most recent visit to Afghanistan and in recent discussions with European Union (EU) representatives,” Sopko wrote.

Sopko’s office has long raised concerns about “ghost workers” in Afghanistan, as a 2011 SIGAR investigation found there was “limited assurance that only ANP personnel who worked received pay.”

Since 2002, the international community has invested $3.2 billion into the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), which is used to pay police salaries.

The United States has contributed $1.2 billion, 38 percent of the total.

The European Union is withholding half of its 200 million euro contribution to the fund over concerns with how the money is being used, Sopko said, although the funding withholding was tied to broader concerns than paying “ghost workers.”

Maj. Gen. Kevin Wendel, chief of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan, said his command was “aggressively pursuing this issue,” but had “not found evidence that anyone knowingly paid for nonexistent workers.”

Wendel said there was an effort underway to reconcile roughly 54,000 erroneous personnel ID numbers in the trust fund’s database that’s used for the Afghan police payroll.