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The Iraqi Army Has Been Paying 50,000 Fake Soldiers

"Fadhaiyin" — "space men."

Peshmerga forces and Iraqi soldiers stand guard after Iraq army forces and Peshmerga launch an operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Celavle town of Diyala, Iraq on November 24, 2014. Iraqi army forces and Peshmerga regained control of Diyala's Celavle town. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Why pay actual soldiers when you can make up fictitious troops — and pocket their salaries?

As Al Jazeera reported, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi revealed a troubling stat on Sunday: The Iraqi army has 50,000 "ghost soldiers" — fake names used to siphon off government funds — on its payroll.

Peshmerga forces and Iraqi soldiers stand guard after Iraq army forces and Peshmerga launch an operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Celavle town of Diyala, Iraq on November 24, 2014. Iraqi army forces and Peshmerga regained control of Diyala's Celavle town. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Peshmerga forces and Iraqi soldiers stand guard after Iraqi army forces and peshmerga launch an operation against the Islamic State in the Celavle town of Diyala, Iraq, on Nov. 24, 2014. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

"There are two kinds of 'fadhaiyin'," an Iraqi officer told the AFP, using a word which literally translates to "space men" and refers to the names of imaginary soldiers on the army payroll.

The officer explained:

The first kind: each officer is allowed, for example, five guards. He'll keep two, send three home and pocket their salary or an agreed percentage.

Then the second and bigger group is at the brigade level. A brigade commander usually has 30, 40 or more soldiers who stay at home or don't exist.

The problem is that he too, to keep his job as a brigade commander, has to bribe his own hierarchical superiors with huge amounts of money.

Because of the need to keep the right palms greased, the officer added, many of the Iraqi soldiers who have deserted, gone missing or been killed in the recent fighting against the Islamic State were never declared so by their commanding officers, but were instead kept on the payroll as "space men."

The U.S. has spent more than $20 billion equipping the Iraqi army over the past decade.

(H/T: International Business Times)

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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