By Jo Comerford
As Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project points out below, the president’s $30 billion figure for getting those 30,000-plus new surge troops into Afghanistan is going to prove a “through-the-basement estimate.” As for the dates for getting them in and beginning to get them out? Well, it’s grain-of-salt time there, too. According to Steven Mufson and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, some of the fuel storage facilities being built to support the surge troops won’t even be completed by the time the first of them are scheduled to leave the country, 18 months from now.
And keep in mind the endless, and endlessly vulnerable, supply lines on which so much of that fuel -- and almost everything else the U.S. military has to have to survive -- travels. Along those mountainous roads, trucks are “lost,” or Taliban-commandeered, or bribes are paid for passage, or some are simply destroyed in what can only be thought of as an underreported supply-line war. All of this adds immeasurably to the staggering expense of the project. According to August Cole of the Wall Street Journal, in fuel terms alone, to support a single soldier in Afghanistan costs between $200,000 and $350,000 a year.
And while we’re at it: don’t expect all those surging troops to make it into Afghanistan any time soon. In the heroic tales of presidential surge deliberations (based on copious White House leaks) that appeared soon after the president’s West Point speech, much was made of how Obama himself had insisted on speeding up the plan to get the extra troops in place. All would arrive, the White House said, within six months. That was quickly changed to approximately eight months. Now, Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, deputy commander of American and NATO forces there, has just announced that it will take nine to eleven months (or maybe even “up to a year”), and that’s if none of the factors that could go wrong do -- something not worth putting your money on when it comes to the Afghan War.
If all this leaves you with lingering worries about the success of both the surge and the war, you can put them to rest, however. NBC’s Richard Engel found a “military schematic,” a single chart from the office of the Joint Chiefs, that offers a visual representation of the military’s full surge/counterinsurgency strategy. It has to be seen to be believed. (Just click here.) It lays out as a flow chart (or perhaps overflow chart would be the more accurate description) just how our war will achieve success. What could possibly go wrong with such a plan? It’s hard to imagine. In the meantime, let Comerford give you a little lesson in the economics of the Afghan War, and what we could have done with that low-ball figure of $30 billion, had we chosen not to fight a war on the moon. Tom
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