Investigators in Iraq have uncovered one of the reasons some military units seemed to melt away in the face of ISIS advances earlier this year: Many of their soldiers didn't exist. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told lawmakers yesterday that 50,000 fake names were uncovered on military payrolls when a head count was done during the most recent salary payment, Al Jazeera reports. The salaries of the "ghost soldiers" are believed to have been siphoned off by corrupt officers who added fake soldiers to the payroll and failed to declare it when real soldiers deserted or died in battle.
Abadi—who has pushed dozens of officers into retirement since taking power in September—says he believes follow-up investigations will uncover more and more ghost troops. The US, which spent more than $20 billion on the Iraqi military between 2003 and 2011 and plans to spend another $1.2 billion next year, has been urging the country to create a more efficient military, which experts say will be a major challenge for Abadi. "The problems are wide, and it's an extremely difficult task which is going to involve some strong will," an Iraqi security analyst tells the Washington Post. "Training is weak and unprofessional." (Read more ISIS stories.)