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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Afghan soldiers' wages paid
Afghan army soldiers
President Karzai needs a strong army to forge national unity
The Afghan Government says it has finally paid about 100,000 Afghan soldiers their full salaries after it managed to collect customs dues from a key province.

Ismail Khan, the powerful governor of the western province of Herat, transferred $20m (12.3m) in taxes to the central government last week.

It was the largest single transfer of funds to Afghanistan's state coffers in 18 months, raising hopes that a tense stand-off between the federal government and local leaders over tax revenues may be coming to an end.

The payment is seen as a major victory for President Hamid Karzai who had threatened to resign over the matter.

"I'd like to inform you that this morning all the salaries and wages of 100,000 officers and men belonging to the Ministry of Defence have been paid," Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani told journalists in Kabul.

"The flow of revenue will continue because that's the will of the people of Afghanistan and the decision of the government."

Mr Ghani said the provincial leaders had no option but to pay their dues.

"This is non-negotiable and it is not subject to discussion. Governors are not autonomous agents," the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

Breakthrough?

Afghanistan's US-backed interim government, led by President Hamid Karzai, has struggled to establish its authority over the country's powerful local governors since being installed in June last year.

The transfer of revenues to Kabul has been a major sticking point, with many local chiefs handing over only a fraction of the taxes raised on their territory.

The Afghan finance ministry reckons that it received only $80m of the country's total $500m tax take last year.

Earlier this year, Mr Karzai threatened to resign if provincial governors did not agree to pay taxes to the central government.

Herat, situated on a key trading route between Afghanistan and neighbouring Iran, is one of the country's wealthiest regions, collecting up to $800,000 a day in customs duties.

Mr Karzai's government will be hoping that other regional leaders follow suit, helping it finance the gigantic reconstruction effort needed to restore the country's infrastructure after 23 years of war.

Other powerful regional governors include General Adbul Rashid Dostum, who controls a swathe of territory bordering Uzbekistan in the north, and Gul Agha Sherzai, who is in charge of Kandahar province on the Pakistani border.


SEE ALSO:
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Afghanistan work 'only just begun'
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