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Off to War We Go!


October 27, 2014
Jim Hightower / Other Words & The Afghanistan Study Group & Rebecca Shabad / The Hill

For a preview of what we're stepping into in Iraq and Syria, consider how badly things turned out in Afghanistan. it turned into both the longest war in American history and a costly failure on all counts -- with more than 2,000 US soldiers killed, nearly 20,000 maimed, and three-quarters of a trillion dollars down the drain. What have we won? The Taliban is again on the offensive. Afghanistan's elections are a farce, corruption is rampant, and the country's US-built infrastructure is already crumbling.

http://otherwords.org/off-to-war-go-again/

Off to War We Go
Jim Hightower / Hightower Lowdown and Other Words

(October 21, 2014) -- Here we go again -- into yet another war in a tumultuous swath of the world we still don't comprehend. For a preview of what we're stepping into in Iraq and Syria, let's remember Afghanistan.

In the yesteryear of the Cheney-Bush regime, the promise was that our Afghan excursion would promptly dispatch the Taliban, give al-Qaeda the boot, and create a stable democratic government.

But it turned into both the longest war in American history and a costly failure on all counts -- with more than 2,000 US soldiers killed, nearly 20,000 maimed, and three-quarters of a trillion dollars [See story below] down the drain. What have we won?

Far from defeated, the Taliban is again on the offensive. Afghanistan's elections are a farce, government corruption is flagrant and rampant, and the country's US-built infrastructure is already crumbling. Equally maddening, most of the $100 billion American taxpayers have sent for reconstruction and training is unaccounted for.

The good news is that the Afghan debacle is scheduled to end this year. The bad news is that it won't.

A contingent of nearly 10,000 US troops will remain in 2015, and we're likely to keep shelling out endless piles of money to fund that country's bankrupt government, including at least $4 billion a year for the next three years to sustain the Afghan army and police alone.

So hi-ho, hi-ho -- off we go to Syria, Iraq, and beyond for what is already being called "a long war." The tab just for the direct military cost of this latest misadventure will be as much as $22 billion a year. [See story below.]

How much good could that money do if we invested it here at home?

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org



$85 Billion of Afghan Aid Wasted
A New Way Forward / The Afghanistan Study Group

(May 28, 2012) -- The president has requested close to $10 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction next year. If Congress approves the request, that will bring the total amount of US reconstruction aid to Afghanistan to $100 billion since 2002, according to the latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. That averages out to a little over $8 billion each year.

$8 billion is a lot of money. It's $2 billion more than Congress needs to find to avoid raising student loan interest rates. It's more than three times what the Department of Energy spent last year on vital nuclear nonproliferation programs, and it's four times the amount the Veterans Health Administration spent to provide medical care to recent combat veterans in 2010.

Some US aid money has been well spent. The literacy rates among the Afghan National Security Forces, for example, has almost tripled since 2009.

But a lot of the $100 billion US taxpayer dollars spent on Afghanistan aid has been misspent. A former senior auditor for SIGAR estimates that only 15% of aid dollars makes it to the intended recipient. The rest is lost to waste and corruption or eaten up by overhead costs. For the US, that means $85 billion has been wasted in Afghanistan.

Slashing aid to Afghanistan (as the Senate Appropriations committee recently did, cutting the president's request by 28%) isn't necessarily the answer. Doing something on a smaller scale does not mean you're doing it better.

It's not simply a matter of changing how much we invest; we must change the way we invest. By making each aid dollar more effective, we will spend less and get real results.

What does this mean in practical terms? There are a lot of recommendations for making Afghanistan aid more effective. Improving congressional oversight would be a good start. Cracking down on wartime contracting abuses is also essential. And focusing on economic development – promoting investment in local infrastructure, providing subsidies and technical assistance to local agricultural producers, and helping Afghan women directly through micro-lending and education programs – would also be smart.

$85 billion of US taxpayer dollars has already been wasted. Billions more are at risk, unless the current course changes.


Report: ISIS War Could Cost up to $22 Billion per Year
Rebecca Shabad / The Hill

(September 29, 2014) -- The war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could cost the United States between $2.4 billion and $22 billion per year, according a report released Monday by a nonpartisan Washington-based budget research institute.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), which evaluates spending on national security, estimates the cost of US operations against ISIS since mid-June is likely between $780 million and $930 million -- less than 0.2 percent of the Pentagon's fiscal 2014 budget.

"The cost of future operations depends primarily on how operations continue, the intensity of air operations, and whether additional ground forces are deployed beyond what is already planned," CSBA's report said.

If air operations continue at a moderate level and 2,000 ground forces are deployed in total, the organization predicts operations could cost between $200 and $320 million per month.

President Obama has so far authorized deployment of 1,600 US personnel to Iraq to assist the country's security forces and protect diplomatic facilities.

The CSBA, however, said, if air operations are increased to a higher pace and 5,000 ground forces are deployed, the US could pay between $350 million and $570 million per month.

If air operations are expanded significantly and 25,000 US troops are put on the ground, the price tag could reach $1.1 to $1.8 billion per month, the CSBA said. In such a scenario, the report said roughly 80 percent of the cost of the war would be based on the ground presence.

"On an annualized basis, the lower-intensity air operations could cost $2.4 to $3.8 billion per year, the higher-intensity air operations could cost $4.2 to $6.8 billion per year, and deployment of a larger ground contingent could drive annual costs as high as $13 to $22 billion," the group predicted.

The higher costs, however, are nowhere near as high as the peak costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, which peaked at $164 billion in 2008 and $122 billion in 2011, respectively.

The CSBA said its estimates are based on publicly available information on types of aircraft and munitions used, bases available to US forces and spending on previous military operations.

The estimates, however, do not cover the costs of humanitarian relief, weapons supplied to partner forces, the training of those forces, contributions to air and ground operations from allies and covert operations.

On Thursday, the Pentagon said costs of US efforts against ISIS are estimated to be $7 million to $10 million per day, up from the $7.5 million per day in late August.

Nearly a week ago, the Obama administration expanded airstrikes to Syria, in addition to those launched in Iraq.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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