Thursday, December 10, 2009

You Gotta Pay The Troll Toll...

At a press conference a few days ago, General McChrystal somewhat surprisingly admitted that Taliban soldiers are getting paid more than the Afghan National Army soldiers for a day's work. We may be spending untold billions in Afghanistan, but when it comes to paying for the people whose training and commitment to self-governance will allow us to leave, we were being quite the cheapskates.

The Taliban are allegedly paying their soldiers $250-300 a month. Their recruits do have to go head to head with the U.S military, which has to rank among the world's toughest jobs. But when they go head to head with the Afghan National Army, the two sides are rather evenly matched, the former's superior skill balanced by the latter's better equipment. The U.S has recently increased its new recruit pay to $240 a month, from previous amounts ranging $120-180. How it took our military geniuses this long to figure out such an outstanding discrepancy is incredible. The new amount is obviously still less than what the Taliban pays, but U.S officials have explained that it comes with benefits like literacy training. Other benefits they cite, like the chance for promotions and the opportunity to fight for your country, are less unique to one side.

The obvious answer is to pay Afghan soldiers on our side $400 a month, which would be well worth the investment if it could end the war quicker by accelerating recruitment and lowering desertion rates. The main problem is that the Afghan military infrastructure, like everything in Afghanistan right now, reeks of corruption. There is no guarantee that more funding for such an effort would lead to more cash in the soldiers' pockets. Similarly, more money wouldn't guarantee that two-timing military officials wouldn't line their pockets from both sides.

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