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30,000 Afghan Police Officers, on Front Line of War, Are Denied Pay

Abdullah, a police officer in the Sarkano district of eastern Kunar Province who uses only one name, said he had missed the biometric team’s visit to his headquarters because he had been dispatched to a front-line position. The team was gone when he returned, and he has not been paid for two months.

“I have borrowed so much that the shopkeepers have stopped lending to my family now,” he said. “I am lost and I don’t know what to do.”

For years now, donor countries have been frustrated by what are known as “ghost soldiers” — corrupt commanders and generals pocketing the salaries of men who exist only on paper.

30,000 Afghan Police Officers, on Front Line of War, Are Denied Pay
30,000 Afghan Police Officers, on Front Line of War, Are Denied Pay

Last year, the American-led NATO coalition withheld the salaries of tens of thousands of army soldiers, forcing the generals to expedite the biometric data registration. The army, officials say, has since improved the accounting of its soldiers.

The American military, which has increasingly limited the information it releases on the state of the Afghan forces, does not give exact figures on how many Afghan soldiers or police officers have been unaccounted for. But the military said last year that it had saved $62.4 million in “cost avoidance” by not paying the unaccounted-for personnel.

But the police force, its leadership widely seen as extremely corrupt, has lagged behind, Afghan and Western officials say.

The depth of the problem in the Interior Ministry was revealed, once again, when two large fighting units of the Afghan police were incorporated into the army. When it came time for the transition, the numbers on paper were off by thousands from the actual number of men that could be accounted for, two senior officials said.

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