'Ghost' Soldiers Haunt Iraqi Army

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi army includes “ghost” soldiers, a purely Iraqi term used to describe members whose names are registered in the wages and salaries lists, but who are not actually present in the military ranks. Their wages go to leaders who cover for their absence.

There are ghost employees in state departments as well; they are absent in reality, but present in terms of official staff who enjoy salaries and privileges.

Al-Monitor was unable to interview officers who benefit from these ghost employees. Instead, it met with former lawmaker and leader in the Mutahidoun bloc, Mohammed Othman al-Khalidi, in Baghdad. He confirmed this phenomenon saying, “The ghost employees were one of the reasons behind the shocking collapse of the Iraqi army before the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul.

Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq, fell into the hands of IS on July 10, after a sudden withdrawal of Iraqi troops.

Khalidi described these unreal soldiers as “ghosts in the army’s ranks, who get paid for staying home. This pushed the competent authorities to resort to armed militias to fill the gap within an army that failed to defend its country.”

The Iraqi army was established in 1921, and in 2003 the leader of the US occupational authority in Iraq, Paul Bremer, reformed it. Back then, the army included around 400,000 soldiers, but today, there are only 170,000.

According to statistics, whose source he did not mention, Khalidi estimated that 30% of the army members were “ghosts.”

Asked about measures taken to limit this phenomenon, he said, “We asked to restructure the armed forces, as part of the National Guard project,” adding, “The partisan designations by political parties and forces allowed the presence of numerous ghosts in all state facilities, and not only in the military institution.”

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