FILE - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seen speaking to the media.
FILE - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seen speaking to the media.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says an investigation of so-called "ghost soldiers" has found at least 50,000 names of troops who were being paid but do not actually exist among the country's armed forces.

Abadi revealed the findings Sunday in an address to Iraqi lawmakers and promised to continue the crackdown on corruption he has pursued since taking office in September. The prime minister has already fired or forced into retirement several top military commanders who served under former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

One Iraqi lawmaker, Kameran Bajelan, told VOA's Kurdish service that the number of ghost soldiers "is much higher than the announced" figure.

The fictitious names on soldier payrolls allow commanders and others to collect their salaries on top of their own, or a portion of them in deals with soldiers who actually exist but stay home.

Widespread corruption has been blamed for the weak response Iraq's military put up as Islamic State militants swept through the northern and western parts of the country in recent months.

The United States has responded by sending military advisers and leading a campaign of airstrikes against the Islamic State to help bolster the Iraqi security forces.

The U.S. Defense Department has also requested more than $1.2 billion for training and equipping Iraqi troops next year, adding to the more than $20 billion it has already spent to help them in the past decade.

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