How much will the strategic pact cost US taxpayers?

The US and Afghanistan have completed an outline of the US commitment to Afghanistan for the next ten years, the New York Times reports. The specifics haven’t been worked out yet, but if we continue down the same path, the deal could end up costing US taxpayers billions of dollars.

Funding for the Afghan security forces alone promises to be costly. The US is reportedly considering a commitment of anywhere from $2.3 billion to $4.1 billion per year, for a ten year total of $20 billion to $40 billion. Add to that the cost of maintaining US advisors for the Afghan.s The Congressional Budget Office estimates that going down to 45,000 troops by 2015 will bring war costs close to $500 billion through 2022.

Pouring billions of dollars into an unpopular war just doesn’t make sense. The US is about to make a multi-billion dollar commitment to the war in Afghanistan; at the same time we are cutting back spending on important defense and domestic programs. This level of spending is clearly unsustainable. How is Afghanistan, with domestic revenues of less than $2 billion per year, supposed to pay for security forces that cost more than $2 billion after the US leaves? They are not; we are.

Of course, there’s something to be said for making an explicit long-term commitment to Afghanistan. After all, the end of the US combat mission does not mean the end of our relationship with Afghanistan. However, we need a new roadmap for engagement—not just a downsized version of the current strategy, but a strategy that is effective, efficient, and sustainable.

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