Afghan security forces get 40% pay hike

AFGHANISTAN yesterday increased the pay of police and soldiers by nearly 40 per cent as Western countries aimed to increase the size and quality of Afghan security forces so their own troops can go home.

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said monthly salaries would increase by $45 to about $165 for a new recruit. At present, there are about 95,000 Afghan soldiers and 93,000 police – a fraction of the number needed to fight the Taleban.

Atmar said: "We have an Afghanistan that will be able to defend itself with its own national security forces."

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Afghanistan depends on funds from the US and other Western countries for large budgetary expenses, such as military and police salaries.

The commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan wants the numbers of Afghan security forces dramatically increased, perhaps to as many as 240,000 soldiers and 160,000 police – goals that will take years to achieve.

A new Nato training mission is working to expand the Afghan army to 134,000 soldiers by October 2010. In addition to increasing the numbers, the quality of the forces also needs to be improved, especially the police force, which is plagued by corruption, desertion and high turnover.

Under the new pay scale, police officers will be eligible for pay increases throughout their careers, and those serving in dangerous areas will earn a bonus, the statement said.

"This will help improve recruiting, increase retention of those professionals in the force today, and it will also help reduce attrition," US Lieutenant-General William Caldwell, commander of the Nato training mission, said in the statement. Gross domestic product per person is about $300 per year in Afghanistan, or $25 a month.

US President Barack Obama is expected to announce next week a strategy that involves sending tens of thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan to quell a growing Taleban insurgency.

A top priority for Obama's plan is to accelerate the training of Afghan security forces to take over responsibility from US and Nato troops.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Afghans would be able to take over security of the country in five years

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