The United States has been wasting hundreds of millions of dollars paying salaries for "ghost soldiers" in Afghanistan who don't actually exist, said John Sopko, a U.S. special inspector general.
During an interview on "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson," Sopko said taxpayer money is being wasted. His interview is set to air on Sunday.
"What we're talking about are policemen, Afghan policemen, Afghan military," he said, according to a transcript of the show. "Afghan civil servants who don't exist or they have multiple identity cards and we're paying their salaries. By 'we' I mean the United States and the international community."
Sopko is responsible for watching over the billions being spent to rebuild Afghanistan. And he said there is no way to prove the money being sent to pay salaries is going to a real live person.
For example, Sopko says, in June 2016 the supposed number of Afghan military and police was 319,595. But an Afghan official told a reporter "the best internal estimate" of the real number was "around 120,000."
When Attkisson noted: "This implies fraud,"
Sopko replied: "Absolutely. Major fraud."
He claimed Afghanistan commanders are actually pocketing the money. He estimated the loss to be major.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars, we're talking about, that may be lost," he said.
And he noted the waste is not limited to paying salaries.
"It's not just the salaries," he said. "We're funding schools based on the number of students, so if you invent or inflate the number of students, you're going to be paying more money. "
A new system to verify individual police and soldiers is being implemented and will likely cut down on the waste in the future.
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