Friday, January 19, 2007

How ghost soldiers are bleeding the Iraqi army of guns and money

Widespread corruption has robbed the Iraqi Armed Forces of arms, money and troops, a Times investigation has discovered.

Army numbers are swelled with “ghost soldiers” who appear on rosters but do not exist. A brigade commander was removed this month for selling weapons and fuel on the black market and officials in the Ministry of Defence support terrorism, according to one lieutenant-colonel.

“Corruption is like termites. They eat from within and affect the morale of the soldiers,” Lieutenant-General Nasier al-Abadi, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces, who pledged to eradicate corruption, told The Times.

The picture throws into stark relief the appeal for more weapons from the Iraqi Prime Minister. Nouri al-Maliki used an interview with The Times on Wednesday to chide the US for failing to give his forces enough weapons. The view from the ground suggests that there are no guarantees that such equipment would reach frontline troops, and underlines US concerns that they could end up in the hands of insurgents and militias.

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