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We’re Still Paying Afghan Soldiers Less Than the Taliban’s Rate

Perhaps one of the only big surprises in Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s December congressional testimony was his disclosure that the Taliban pays its soldiers about $300 per month, less than what the U.S.-sponsored Afghan government pays. According to Maj. Gen. David Hogg, the deputy commander for training Afghan soldiers, it’s still true. While a recent increase in Afghan soldiers’ base pay has aided recruiting, Hogg told a blogger conference call this morning, the base pay is now roughly $165 per month — a little more than half of what the Taliban pay.

In response to a question from TWI, Hogg suggested that the discrepancy isn’t such a big deal, saying “We’re not in competition with the Taliban for pay.” Instead, the NATO training effort seeks to provide Afghan soldiers “with a pay level that lets them take care of their family,” which includes medical support and “a lot of other benefits, if you will.” (There’s also a combat-pay-like bonus structure, which provides $75 extra per month to Afghan soldiers in so-called “red” zones like Helmand Province.) Hogg didn’t specify how his command and the Afghan Ministry of Defense derived the amount of monthly base pay sufficient for an Afghan family, but said he heard a lot from Afghan soldiers about patriotism motivating their service, although he added, “Pay is important. We all know that.”

Whatever the pay structure sweet-spot, Hogg said that his command was on a “glide path” to increase the size of the Afghan National Army from 104,000 soldiers currently to 134,000 by Oct. 31. He had a lot of praise for the efficacy of the Afghans he’s seen who complete recently-expanded training programs. “These guys can shoot,” he said, though “what they lack is leadership.” Expanding the capabilities of Afghan commissioned and noncommissioned officers is accordingly a priority, Hogg said.

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