The Taliban has found a way to recruit fighters that is less about winning hearts and minds and more about the enduring appeal of cold hard cash.
They are paying fighters up to $12 a day to fight the fledgling Afghan National Army, which pays only $4 a day to its soldiers in the field, according to military officials.
“The Taliban are supported by Pakistan and they get money from the drugs trade so they get more pay than our soldiers,” said Colonel Myuddin Ghouri of the national army’s 205 Corp.
While the ANA has the advantage of superior equipment and the same medical treatment as British troops, its troops often have to risk their lives far from home. “If you were a lad in the hills and you were offered $12 to stay local or you could take $4 and fight miles away from home, which would you do?” said Lieutenant Colonel David Hammond, an officer with 7 Para who is training Afghan officers in the southern province of Helmand as part of a mentoring scheme.
The pay difference is making it harder to recruit soldiers to the 38,000-strong ANA, which has faced a much better equipped and funded insurgency since January. Western officials have estimated the Taliban’s forces have risen from 2,000 last year to 6,000 this year. The Taliban claims to have 12,000 men. Afghan defence ministry officials believe funds for the insurgency are flowing over the border from Pakistan and possibly from Arab countries.
The multi-ethnic Afghan National Army has been one of the success stories of the post-September 11 era and is hugely popular with most Afghans.
However, Afghan officials in Kabul say the pay of Afghan soldiers will remain a problem.
“Basic pay of $70 a month was a lot of money three years ago but it is harder to recruit people to fight in a bitter insurgency now,” said a Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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