The Iraqi government has been paying 50,000 “ghost soldiers” who do not exist as part of their army.
In June, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured Iraq's northern capital, Mosul, with ease because Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions. The army had an estimated 400,000 troops before the fall of Mosul. Since then, the combat force has shrunk to nearly 85,000 troops.
The investigation into “ghost soldiers” determined that the salaries were being paid but the soldiers were not in military service. Iraqi army officers pretended to have more soldiers on their books in order to pocket their salaries.
Entry level soldiers receive $600 a month, costing Iraq at least $380 million a year. Those are just estimates, and some Iraqi officials believe the actual amount could be triple those figures.
The blame of this corruption has fallen on former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki. U.S. officials say his Shiite commanders contributed to the decline of the quality of Iraqi forces.
The new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has retired at least 24 senior officials in order to restructure the government to avoid future corruption and loss of money.
“We have soldiers fighting and being killed, while there are mock names of soldiers receiving salaries,” said Abadi.
Meanwhile, the United States has been actively involved in training the Iraqi army for eight years, spending more than $20 billion in Iraq since 2003. Now, the U.S. is focused on training nine new Iraqi light-infantry brigades, consisting of only 45,000 soldiers. The Pentagon has requested $1.2 billion to train the Iraqi army in 2015.