Happy Anniversary, Afghanistan
On October 7, the U.S. Senate said "Happy Anniversary" one day early to the war in Afghanistan with a defense spending bill that puts the cost of war at $300 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That's more than $3 billion per month ($100 million per day) since 2001.
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Four days before the Senate decision, an attack on a pair of outposts in Afghanistan left eight soldiers dead -- the deadliest attack on U.S. and NATO forces in more than a year.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal admits that we need a new strategy. "We are going to have to do things dramatically differently," says McChrystal, "even uncomfortably differently in the way we operate." For him, this means a troop increase, and, thus, a budgetary increase.
But where will this budgetary (troop) increase get us? Many soldiers today aren't sure why they're even in Afghanistan. The Times of London recently documented soldiers' lost hearts. "We're lost -- that's how I feel," said U.S. Specialist Raquime Mercer. "I'm not exactly sure why we're here." So why would we send a troop increase -- and thus increase our national debt -- if our troops don't even know what they're fighting for?
Nonetheless, President Obama is considering an increase of 40,000 troops, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal has recommended. According to House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D-WI), an increase would propel the cost of the war to almost $1 trillion over the next decade.
But wait, what about Iraq? Optimists note that the Congressional Budget Office said on Oct. 7 that Obama's timetable brings military personnel, fuel, and transportation costs in Iraq to zilch by 2013. Realists understand that war costs don't end when troops leave. For example, some estimate the cost of damaged equipment repairs at more than $50 billion - not to mention the long-term costs committed to Iraqis, U.S. soldiers, and their families.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs recently acknowledged what every taxpaying citizen recognizes. "We don't have unlimited money," Gibbs said.
Wait, are you sure? It sure seems like we do given our recent spending