According to Afghanistan's ex-finance minister most of the 300,000 troops and police on the government's books did not exist.

However the salary of the soldiers were paid by the US army and they are more than two thirds of the mentioned troops. The US army trained them and until the very last moment they provided the equipment and they were in charge of the logistic.

The existence of ghost soldier without taking into account deserters is not possible because there would be a mismatch between the number of trained soldiers and the number of soldiers paychecks, only desertions might explain the gap and actually the ex-minister claimed that high level officials turned a blind eye on the desertions, but they could not go unnoticed by US officers in charge of the logistic. Not only they must check that they have everything to be operational, but they have also to make sure that the weapons they are using don't fall in the wrong hands. How is it possible that the US army kept paying the salaries without taking notice?

Furthermore, before the Taliban offensive started tha Afghan army was using more than 2,000 armored vehicles, about 100 helicopters and more than 50 aircraft. In order to maintain pilot and transport soldiers with all that equipment you must have a lot of active soldiers. All that equipment was used, and was also used in joint operations with the US troops stationed there. Now suddenly they are telling us that actually there was almost nobody there and the US military wrote just few reports without further actions. How credible is it?

Note: I wondered whether this was a question for the Skeptics forum, but the rules of that forum require answers based on scientific publications, while this question requires to compare the description of the accounts provided by the US military with the declarations of the politicians.


2 Answers 2


I don't think that there is reasonable doubt that due to corruption there were some people receiving paychecks who weren't regularly showing up to work in the military (based upon interviews of people on the ground in news accounts). See, e.g., the BBC (November 2021), the Deccan Herald (August 2021), Esquire (August 2021), and the Guardian (May 2016).

Similar difficulties have arisen in many regimes in modern history (e.g. South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, Russian during the First and Second Chechen War in the Caucasus and the era in between them, the Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) during the early 2000s, and Iraq in 2013-2014), so it is not shocking to see it in Afghanistan as well.

Most or two-thirds sounds high, but quantifying an exact number is intrinsically challenging.

Usually one relies on official government reports and when the government or someone funded by it is corrupt, those reports are inherently unreliable.

Also, gathering new evidence is hindered by a Taliban led government whose leaders have been at war with Western powers for decades and aren't inclined to be forthcoming about factors that brought them military victory in a recent civil war. Those details are now national security secrets of the current government of Afghanistan.

  • If it were true. why the US Military kept paying them?
    – FluidCode
    Nov 10, 2021 at 23:03
  • 3
    @FluidCode: I think you are confusing "paid with money that originally came from the USA" with "directly paid by the USA"
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 10, 2021 at 23:10
  • @BenVoigt No I am not confusing. Even if there was a middleman they knew how many salaries they were paying and how many active soldiers there were.
    – FluidCode
    Nov 10, 2021 at 23:15
  • 14
    @FluidCode: So the Afghan government comes and says they have X number of soldiers. USA military intelligence determines that Y of them are not showing up to work. So USA tells the Afghan government "Here is money for X-Y soldiers. Do not pay any of it to the absentees, or we will A, B and C." What exactly will they threaten to do if the Y soldiers continue to be paid a share? Not to mention that ignoring the claim for X salaries is already an accusation of lying. Having a middleman makes all the difference, when the relationship with that middleman is important.
    – Ben Voigt
    Nov 10, 2021 at 23:20
  • 1
    @FluidCode one could write many books on why the US military kept up the charades as long as they did. Long story short, it was easier to kick the can, keep the status quo, and hope it became someone else's problem rather than bite the bullet and admit it was doomed to failure. And not just for the military --that was also exactly the assessment made by Obama (and trump I guess) and he was later proven correct by the massive amount of negative press Biden got for finally pulling the plug.
    – eps
    Nov 16, 2021 at 14:36

The ANDSF pay system had problems for years- the US regularly provided large sums of cash to one individual to pay the salaries of tens or hundreds of soldiers. In 2016, the army contracting command awarded a contract to netlinks to build the Afghanistan personnel and payroll system.

“ APPS is an enterprise resource planning system that will integrate existing MoD and MoI systems for personnel management and payroll, like the Afghan Human Resources Information System (AHRIMS) and Afghan Automated Biometrics Information Systems (AABIS), into a single platform providing timely and accurate accountability of all personnel, including civilians. This extensive, multi-year effort to implement APPS will strengthen transparency, audit capability, personnel accountability and the elimination of “ghost soldiers,” and limit ANDSF payroll fraud across the ministries. MoD and MoI personnel must provide personal data, possess an identification card, have biometric data on file, and occupy a valid position on the current tashkil to be validated and slotted within the APPS system. During this reporting period, APPS achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC) in both the MoD and MoI. In September 2018, CSTC-A began funding monthly ANA payroll disbursements only to those personnel that are validated and slotted in APPS and meet the minimum base pay requirements. To meet minimum base pay requirements, APPS must contain validated information for an individual’s biometric number, name, father’s name, grandfather’s name, ID card number, date of birth, and actual rank. At the end of this reporting period, 159,490 ANA personnel (85 percent of ANA on-hand personnel) have been slotted in APPS and met minimum base pay requirements. Within the MoI, 70,426 ANP personnel (60 percent of the ANP on-hand personnel) have been slotted in APPS and met minimum base pay requirements in APPS.”

https://media.defense.gov/2018/Dec/20/2002075158/-1/-1/1/1225-REPORT-DECEMBER-2018.PDF pg 48-50

However, as late as 2019, federal audit reports found the system was not working as intended and the US still did not know if soldiers were being paid. https://media.defense.gov/2019/Aug/19/2002172386/-1/-1/1/DODIG-2019-115.PDF pg 3

The fy 2020 appropriations act stated only individuals who were registered in apps should be funded with asff funds. “ The requirement in the FY2020 Appropriations Act that only those personnel biometrically enrolled in the Afghan Pay and Personnel System (APPP) may be paid with DoD funds has helped mitigate resistance within the MoD to implementing APPS.” https://media.defense.gov/2020/Jul/01/2002348001/-1/-1/1/ENHANCING_SECURITY_AND_STABILITY_IN_AFGHANISTAN.PDF#page63 Pg 4

Sigar began an audit in 2020 on the accuracy of the apps data, and preliminary results found significant data reliability issues with the data provided to dod. https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2021-07-30qr.pdf pg 64


Dod has never provided auditors direct access to the system despite the preliminary findings.

Dod awarded the contract to netlinks again in 2020, and from contact documentation, it appears they made sure no one else won the contract to make sure the true condition of the system was not leaked to another contractor. (https://govtribe.com/opportunity/federal-contract-opportunity/afghan-personnel-and-pay-system-apps-w15qkn21r5001-1 Questions and answers documents in link)

The US Military lost accountability of the money and never really knew where the money went. They did claim they did, citing the Afghan personnel and pay system as the solution. But it never worked. That’s where the 300k number came from, not intel. To date , they paid over 64 million for the system.

https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2021-07-30qr.pdf Pg 64

https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2021/fy2021_ASFF_Justification_Book.pdf pg 27

https://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2019/FY2019_ASFF_Justification_Book.pdf Pg 29

They deposited the money directly In Afghanistan’s central bank, and were tasked with ensuring it went to the soldiers. https://media.defense.gov/2018/Dec/20/2002075158/-1/-1/1/1225-REPORT-DECEMBER-2018.PDF pg 42; 48-50; 105-107

But they hid the truth about the system and it still hasn’t come out that they had no idea where the money went. An audit found it wasn’t working in 2019 and it still wasn’t working when they left in 2021.

https://media.defense.gov/2019/Aug/19/2002172386/-1/-1/1/DODIG-2019-115.PDF pg 3

Nobody is asking about APPS, despite the dod saying it was the system of record that would ensure accurate payments and reduce corruption. The combined security transition command reported on the Afghan army numbers. This is where the false numbers came from, not intel. The inaccurate reporting was kept up until the very end. That’s why other nations and the state department didn’t know the true story of the ANDSF until after everything fell in august.

  • Welcome to Politics! Please add some references to support the claims in your answer.
    – JJJ
    Nov 24, 2021 at 1:50
  • Afghanistan security forces fund justification books - online for the past 3 years. Work experience Nov 24, 2021 at 2:55
  • Could you link them in your answer, maybe some news reports based on those books which support your claims?
    – JJJ
    Nov 24, 2021 at 2:57
  • The current situation isn’t publicly available yet Nov 24, 2021 at 3:11
  • Thanks for adding some links. I'm not doubting the answer, it's just that for visitors to be able to judge the contents of your answer they will have to see where it's coming from. That said it would be even better to include some relevant excerpts from the sources. As information that isn't public, I think it's fairly rare for stuff like this to be completely secret. Even if it's not officially confirmed, there might be relevant leaks or statements by insiders / experts that can be used to build the answer around.
    – JJJ
    Nov 24, 2021 at 3:19

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