"Afghan commanders often pocket the paychecks of "ghost soldiers" for whom the US is paying salaries. The number of ghost soldiers is significant, likely reaching into the tens of thousands," Sopko said in his address to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
He underlined that US appropriations for Afghanistan now totals more than three quarters of a trillion dollars, and that money does not include the $43.7 billion that were requested for 2017. The Afghan ministries are simply unable to manage such funds, Sopko explained, adding that the country is ranked third-most corrupt state in the world.
"Should it be any surprise that we continually hear about the palatial mansions of Afghan ministers and civil servants as well as the specter of ghost teachers, doctors, soldiers, and police?" Sopko added.
Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with Taliban insurgents and other extremist factions operating in the country. The United States has been carrying out a counter-terrorist operation in Afghanistan since 2001.
In May 2012, the two countries signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement, followed by the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) signed in September 2014. In July 2012, Afghanistan became the first country which was designated US Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA).
On Tuesday, outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed significant progress in Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's legacy.
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