Video appears to show Taliban using planes as swings

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The country’s former finance minister Khalid Payenda told the BBC that most of the 300,000 troops and police listed on the government’s books did not exist. He claimed phantom personnel were added to official lists so generals could pocket their wages.

Mr Payenda said records showing security forces greatly outnumbered the Taliban were incorrect.

“The way the accountability was done, you would ask the chief in that province how many people you have and based on that you could calculate salaries and ration expenses and they would always be inflated,” he told the BBC’s Business Daily programme.

The former minister alleged numbers may have been exaggerated by more than six times with “desertions [and] martyrs” never accounted for because some commanders kept their bank cards and withdrew their salaries.

Twenty years of war in Afghanistan ended when the US and Great Britain withdrew from the country in the summer.

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the capital Kabul hours before the Taliban took control.

The speed of the Taliban’s military reconquest of Afghanistan shocked military and civilian leaders.

In an October report to the US Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan (SIGAR) identifies “poor” leadership and “rampant corruption” in the Afghan government and the country’s military as a possible factor in the army’s collapse.

Its weaknesses were further exposed once the US and coalition forces began their withdrawal, the report adds.

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The report notes Mr Payenda claimed in an interview with the Afghan Analysts Network that the actual number of available troops was between 40,000 to 50,000, not the more than 300,000 on the books.

This was due to government and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces officials using “ghost soldiers” to defraud the government and enrich themselves, the SIGAR report states.

A 2016 SIGAR report claimed neither the US nor its Afghan allies knew how many Afghan soldiers and police existed, how many were available for duty or the true nature of their operational capabilities.

The news follows UN Secretary General António Guterres urging the world to take action during a “make or break” moment for the country.

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“If we do not act and help Afghans weather this storm, and do it soon, not only they but all the world will pay a heavy price”, Mr. Guterres told reporters.

“Without food, without jobs, without their rights protected, we will see more and more Afghans fleeing their homes in search of a better life. The flow of illicit drugs, criminal and terrorist networks will also likely increase,” he warned.

In September, more than 3.8 million people received food aid while 21,000 children and 10,000 women received treatment for acute malnutrition, according to the UN.

A total of 32,000 people have been given items including blankets and warm clothes for the winter.

Mr Guterres has also appealed to the Taliban to keep its promises to women and girls and to fulfil its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.

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