Former Iraqi PM Haider Al-Abadi said in a July 16, 2019 interview on Alforat TV (Iraq) that he had been told by a senior Iraqi PMU official that the PMU had no more than 60,000 fighters, instead of the 150,000 fighters that it claims to have had, and that in order to gain followers, the government-subsidized salaries of PMU fighters had been split and distributed to people who were not fighters. He also said that before 2018, he had required all political parties to sever their ties with the PMU in order to participate in Iraq’s political process, but that after the elections, these ties resumed and the PMU began to again influence Iraqi politics.
Haider Al-Abadi: "Before 2018, I gave orders and instructions that the PMU must not be involved in politics and the elections. All the groups that entered the elections declared that they had retired from the PMU. We gave them two options: Either remain in the PMU and not interfere in politics and in the elections, or to leave the PMU and sever their ties with it. All those who entered the elections declared that they had cut their ties with the PMU. However, after the elections, we have seen, unfortunately, how the ties were restored between the political work and parts of the PMU, and this is dangerous."
Interviewer: "Is it dangerous or wrong?"
Al-Abadi: "[The PMU] must be an independent institution that protects Iraqi citizens, and not an institution that protects a certain faction against [other] citizens. This is dangerous. "The number of PMU members is on the rise."
Interviewer: "On the rise?"
Al-Abadi: "Yes. These days, groups are being asked to join [the PMU]. They are being influenced by promises that they will get such-and-such if they join. What is the excuse for increasing the number of PMU members in times of peace and not in times of war?"
Interviewer: "Let me ask you a direct question. What was the official number of PMU members? You used to pay their salaries... Was it 150,000?"
Al-Abadi: "That was the number that they gave. But when you went with them and checked..."
Interviewer: "How many were they?"
Al-Abadi: "I talked with the former Inspector General, who was from the Badr Organization. He was an honest man and he showed me irrefutable evidence. He talked with me privately and then they pressured him and silenced him. They threatened him and silenced him. He talked with me freely and insisted on talking so that they would not silence him."
Interviewer: "What did he say?"
Al-Abadi: "He said that they were no more than 60,000. He said that he has real numbers, since he did not inspect only the salaries. On pay-day, they would all come, but some used to send a representative that would take the money for them in bags. He distributed the money to more people than he was supposed to. Suppose he had 1,000 fighters, but he distributed the money between 3,000 or 4,000 people in order to gain supporters. He would distribute the salaries between a large number of people. This is inappropriate. You are stealing from a fighter who fights..."
Interviewer: "You became familiar with this evidence when you were the army's General Commander and the Prime Minister of Iraq. Why didn't you do anything?"
Al-Abadi: "Because of this, we began to take measures."