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Afghan President Boosts Army, Police Pay as Taliban Offensive Rages

Afghan National Army soldiers stage at a base in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes
Afghan National Army soldiers stage at a base in Wardak province, Afghanistan. Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced a significant boost in pay and benefits for the country's security forces in an apparent attempt to bolster morale in the midst of this year's fighting season.

Ghani, in a statement released late Monday, directed the defense, interior and finance ministries to implement the increase in combat pay for the country's army, air force and police. He also proposed initiatives to provide financial support for families of soldiers and police killed during security operations, as well as "medical treatment and assistance (for) soldiers who demonstrate bravery in the field."

Naqibullah Muhabat, a member of parliament and former army general, lauded the move, saying it would encourage more Afghans to join the security forces.

Low pay and poor benefits have been a long-standing source of tension between the government and security forces, Muhabat said.

"They feel discouraged, and that is why some of them just leave their (posts)," he said, referring to the high desertion rates among the army and police.

That problem has been exacerbated by record-high casualties suffered by the security forces as they have taken on the Taliban summer offensive with little to no combat support from U.S. and NATO forces.

About 13,000 Western troops remain in Afghanistan after the official end of combat operations last December. They are primarily responsible for advising the country's army and police.

Casualty rates for the security forces were 59 percent higher this year compared to 2014 levels, according to a U.S. Defense Department report released earlier in June.

As fighting intensifies between government forces and the Taliban, and coalition forces continue to draw down their troops in country, those figures are expected to get worse, intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil told lawmakers on Saturday.

The Taliban have demonstrated an ability to quickly mass hundreds of fighters for attacks on remote or lightly defended districts since their summer offensive began in April.

Attacks on the parliament building in Kabul and several districts in northern Afghanistan were a stark reminder of the Taliban's ability to carry out large-scale, high-profile strikes across the country.

-- Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

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