Afghanistan Weekly Reader: Shadow Wars

In a speech on the Challenge of a National Defense yesterday, Defense Secretary Panetta said, “This is a complicated relationship…we are fighting a war in their country.” He was referring not to Afghanistan, but to Pakistan. And Pakistan is not our only shadow war: the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador has escalated tensions in what some are calling a covert war between the US and Iran.

As the debate on the shadow wars continues, it’s worth remembering that the US is still very much involved in two real, and very costly, wars. 100,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan alone. And last year we spent over $150 billion on the wars. Winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a crucial step in developing a more effective approach to the complexities of shadow wars.


Afghanistan And Iraq War Costs, Part 2: Operational Versus Personnel Costs
Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski

War costs will go down as we withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But they won’t go down quickly.  A lot of our war expenditure is in support operations, not personnel. As a result, even factoring in the drawdown, we should expect to spend hundreds of billions on the wars over the next several years.


A Costly Evolution
TIME by Richard Haass

The goals of ousting the Taliban regime and ridding Afghanistan of most of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 hijackings were accomplished in short order. Nevertheless, American troops not only remained in Afghanistan but increased in number, ultimately reaching 100,000 under President Obama. The mission also expanded. U.S. soldiers fought not just the few terrorists they encountered but also the many Taliban who moved into and out of Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan. What began as a narrow, modest war of necessity evolved into a broad, ambitious war of choice.

Huntsman: Limit US involvement in Afghanistan
AP by Phillip Elliott

Republican presidential contender Jon Huntsman on Monday called for scaling back U.S. involvement in international conflicts – including Afghanistan – so America can focus on rebuilding the economy.


America’s New War with Pakistan
The Washington Note by Steve Clemons

As long as the US is dependent on Pakistan’s support, and fears that a nuclear-armed Pakistan that is untethered, would be disastrous for US and global interests, then Pakistan has license to continue to misbehave and taunt the US political and military operations inside Afghanistan. America has got to shrink its footprint in Afghanistan, become less dependent on Pakistan with which it is already in low level hot conflict, and begin a new strategy in the region that helps

Ten Years Gone: The Unraveling of Afghanistan
National Interest by Bruce Riedel
Combined with the shattering end of hopes for a peace process, Afghanistan is now a surrogate battlefield for a sixty-four-year-old regional conflict.

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