Hyper-linking the costs of war in Afghanistan
Yes, George F. Will it is time to get out of Afghanistan. As General Patreaus has said, al Qaida is not operating in Afghanistan. And if our principle mission is – and should be – to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” AQ then we can do that mission better by using tactics focused on countering terrorists, instead of diverting attention to fight drug kingpins or battle for “hearts and minds” against an anti-Karzai insurgency.
After all, for how many years can we spend $68 billion in Afghanistan. If Anthony Cordesman is correct then “victory” is still years to come. Yet, it has already been more than 8 years of “democracy/state-building“, even though AQ hasn’t re-established a base there since October 2001. That was some sort of victory; maybe it is the only “victory” we need.
$68 billion is a lot of money but it is not enough to pay for the extra troops that General McChrystal says is needed to achieve “success”. Interestingly enough, $68 billion is about 100x more than the annual Afghan tax income of $715 million. Likewise interesting, Afghanistan is broke (surprise!) with a yearly deficit of nearly $2 billion.
But an Afghan budget deficit of $2 billion doesn’t even compare to the record-breaking US federal budget deficit of $1.6 trillion.
But all of this talk about money glosses over a more important aspect of US operations in Afghanistan, namely the extended troop deployments which have left America scarred with war causalities; and have strained families often to the point of break-up. Potentially endagering national security, these deployments have left our force structure stretched dangerously thin potentially ill-prepared for future conflicts.
To conclude, some other quick tidbits of factual information:
- Two months ago was the deadliest month for coalition forces; until it was surpassed by last month.
- When the US expelled AQ from Afghanistan in 2002, the total cost of the war was around $20 billion; eight years later costs are rising with the war budget this year exceeding the first three years of the war by nearly 3x as much.
- A two-fold increase in Afghanistan’s GDP would make it slightly less than North Korea’s, and comparable to Chad, Kenya, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Zambia.
- The Horn of Africa, Yemen, and United States are all places more likely to host terrorist threats that endanger US interests more than Afghanistan.