Afghanistan war costs come at the expense of other defense programs

When Pakistan closed its border crossings to NATO convoys after a NATO airstrike mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the war in Afghanistan got more expensive. Only now, months later, are we learning just how expensive.

The Pentagon is requesting congressional approval for more than $2.1 billion for increased shipping and transportation costs. The more expensive alternatives to the Pakistan routes—Northern Distribution Network, a series of roads through Russia and Central Asia, and airlifting supplies into Afghanistan—are partly responsible for cost hike, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pegs at $100 million per month.

Rising oil prices have had an effect too. The Pentagon, the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels (excluding countries) pays up to $400 per gallon of gasoline in Afghanistan.

Of course, $2.1 billion is pocket change compared to the overall costs of the war. The Pentagon’s war budget for 2012 topped $110 billion. $2.1 billion is less than 2 percent of that total—the price of just one week of war in Afghanistan.

But there’s a catch. That $2.1 billion isn’t just additional money tacked on to the war budget for 2012. Instead, the Pentagon (pending congressional approval) will reprogram the funds—taking money from other defense programs and moving it the war budget.

It has never been more clear that continuing the war in Afghanistan comes at a high price, to the U.S. economy and national security.

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