KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Approximately half of all police in Afghanistan’s southern provinces use drugs and up to 70% of police positions in those regions are “ghost” positions not actually filled by a person, a new report released Wednesday by a U.S. government watchdog said.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, monitors the billions of dollars the U.S. spends in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The report said Afghanistan’s Internal Security Directorate, partnering with the National Security Directorae, found that approximately 50% of all police in Kandahar, Zabul, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces used drugs. The report did not specify what kind of drugs.
The agencies also found that between 50% and 70% of police positions were “ghost soldier” jobs unfilled by real people.
The report comes as efforts appear to be ramping up to start negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban on Afghanistan’s future.
Across Afghanistan, the rosters of many units’ soldiers and police are filled with fake names or names of men who were killed in battle but never officially declared dead.
Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said the ministry had received the report and would investigate.
Abdul Sattar Husseini, a lawmaker and member of parliament’s internal security committee disagreed with the report, but said he can’t deny that there are some drug users in the police ranks, He said around 25% to 30% of police might use drugs and the Interior Ministry was trying to identify them. He offered no evidence for those percentages.
According to Afghan authorities, there are more than 350,000 Afghan security forces, but neither the international community nor Afghan authorities knows how many soldiers and police exist or how many are available for duty at any given time.
The start of intra-Afghan talks, envisaged under a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement signed in February, has been hampered by delays that have frustrated Washington. Some had expected the negotiations to begin earlier this month.
The Taliban have held to their promise under the February agreement not to attack U.S. and NATO troops as required by the February deal but have been staging near-daily attacks on Afghan government forces. They say a permanent cease-fire will be part of the negotiations once they begin.