- The Pentagon’s Progress
- Will American “Successes” Lead to More Iraqi Military Failures?
- Trumbo to Trump, When Did America Become So Afraid?
Nick Turse, TomDispatch
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January 21, 2016 | Iraq and Afghanistan are separated by more than 1,000 miles and, although they both exist in what is now known as the Greater Middle East, they had little in common -- at least until March 2003, when the Bush administration followed up its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by invading Iraq. Since then, they’ve had quite a bit in common, including vast infusions of U.S. funds and the massive levels of corruption that accompany them, as well as the way refugees from both countries have been joining the same flow of the desperate and dispossessed heading for Europe. These days, with the spread of an Islamic State franchise to Afghanistan, even their insurgents are becoming part of the same “brand.” And there’s one other thing they’ve had in common in these years: ghosts.
In both countries, the U.S. military has built, on paper, vast local security forces from scratch to the tune of at least $65 billion in Afghanistan and at least $25 billion in Iraq. Their armies and police forces have, however, both turned out to be remarkably spectral in nature. They are filled with “ghost soldiers” and “ghost policemen” who are being paid salaries but don’t exist. In some cases, they are quite literally already dead and wandering in the world of spirits. Their U.S.-funded salaries are, in turn, being pocketed by commanders and other senior military officials in an operation that couldn’t be more profitable or "successful" -- at least until their ranks, sometimes thinned to nonexistence, are attacked by flesh-and-blood enemy forces. In Iraq, in 2014, after significant parts of that country’s American-built army had abandoned its weaponry and fled its posts in the country’s northern cities in the face of modest numbers of Islamic State fighters, the prime minister announced that there were at least 50,000 “ghost” troops in his military. (That figure was widely believed to be an underestimate.)
Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, as well as Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. He has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Nation, and is a contributing writer for the Intercept.
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Trumbo to Trump, When Did America Become So Afraid? Mike Hegedus, Huffington Post
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