It is a disturbingly exorbitant cost as witnessed by the comments of several senators during a hearing. Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts said that two months of Afghan spending could fund an opioid center in every county in America.
The interesting part is related to mind-boggling difference between the amount spent on Afghan and American security forces, and providing logistics, compared to the economic assistance being given to the Afghan government.
It was revealed that $5 billion goes to the Afghan forces and $13 billion for around 16,000 American troops stationed in the country, while a paltry sum of $780 million is for economic assistance. The remainder of the $45 billion outlay is for logistics support.
The Committee was also told that the current cost of war is much less than when over 100,000 American servicemen were waging a war on terror in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. Then, the bill hit $100 billion a year.
That then leads to the question of the total cost of the Afghan war since 2001. Various factors used to calculate the cost tend to change the net expenditures. However, different estimates show American taxpayers have paid between $1 trillion to $2 trillion for this obscure war.
If we add in the war in Iraq, the total figure is close to $5 trillion. However, again, these are not the final figures as various experts use different baselines in making their calculations.
America is still very rich by any standards. Otherwise, how could it funnel huge sums of money into such senseless conflicts? In case of Iraq, at least the administration has the saving grace of officially ending the war and pulling out troops.
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for the Afghan war, which still rages on in its 17th year. It has been termed as the longest running war in American history (even beyond Vietnam).
The figures for the Afghan or Iraq wars, it should be stressed, are just the cost suffered by the United States. Imagine the human and material cost for Afghanistan, Iraq, NATO allies and the neighbors of these two countries.
For example, Pakistan has officially said that its economy suffered a $123 billion loss since start of the conflict in 2001. It also lost more than 70,000 civilians and over 6,000 security personnel in bombings and fighting against militants.
The downside of the Afghan conflict is that there is no indication, as yet, of who is winning. There is a civilian government in Kabul supported by the international community whose writ, however, is limited.
Taliban militants control vast swathes of countryside, but are unable to topple the government. They cannot win the war militarily while American forces are stationed in Afghanistan.
Equally, the American troops are far away from a decisive win. As the militants detonate bombs in Kabul, Americans are coming under increasing criticism from Afghan politicians for failing to fix the security problem.
Former president Hamid Karzai, in an interview with the Associated Press, accused the Americans of using Afghan soil for their own strategic objectives. He said the purpose of American troops being in Afghanistan was not “to stop extremism.”
He continued: “In my view, their intention is to keep us divided and weak so they can carry on their objectives in this region….They (Americans) have their global politics and rivalries. They have China as a great rising power. They have Russia as a revitalized, re-energized great power on the world scene, and they feel challenged and even threatened.”
It is not for first time Karzai has targeted the U.S. for failures. In another interview he accused it of turning a blind eye towards Da’esh, which controls the border region and has been involved in several lethal attacks inside Afghanistan.
American forces have obviously failed to eliminate the Taliban but they can take credit for decimating al-Qaeda in the region. However, the threat posed by the latter has been taken over by Da’esh.
The details of cost of Afghan war shared with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at least help to partially identify the cause of trouble in Afghanistan. The money given in economic assistance is abysmally low and a reason for failure to stabilize the country.