Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Government 'Reviewing' Plan to Cut Danger Pay for Soldiers in Afghanistan

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Government 'Reviewing' Plan to Cut Danger Pay for Soldiers in Afghanistan

Article excerpt

Danger-pay cut for troops now under 'review'


OTTAWA - The Harper government is trying to navigate its way out of a political minefield, imploring a joint committee of federal officials to reverse a planned cut to danger pay for troops serving in Afghanistan.

The stipend was reportedly facing a reduction of more than 30 per cent, which would have meant nearly $500 a month less for roughly 920 soldiers based in Kabul, who are training Afghan forces.

The rationale for the initial decision, which was made by a joint committee of bureaucrats from National Defence and Treasury Board, was that Kabul is safer than Afghanistan's volatile south, where Canadian soldiers are no longer serving.

But in an exercise in damage control, officials from the prime minister's office on down, called Wednesday for the committee, which meets only four times a year, to convene again "as soon as possible" to reverse the decision.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay was unavailable, but Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney made it clear the governing Conservatives were not happy.

"This decision was not appropriate, and we are asking for this decision to be reviewed," he said Wednesday.

It is unclear when the committee will meet, or whether a reversal would come in time before the next pay period.

The decision to cut pay mystified opposition politicians, who said Kabul may not be the killing fields of Kandahar, but troops still face dangers.

The mountains east of Kabul continue to see sporadic fighting with insurgents, while the Afghan capital itself has been the subject of suicide attacks and ambushes led by the Haqqani Network, an ultra-violent terrorist group separate from the Taliban, but loosely affiliated with al-Qaida.

"Canadian soldiers are serving in a dangerous mission, regardless of what this minister thinks," said New Democrat MP Jack Harris.

One Canadian soldier -- Master Cpl. …

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