1. Afghanistan war costs come at the expense of other defense programs

    Published: July 2nd, 2012

    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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  2. Afghanistan Weekly Reader: Moving Defense Dollars to Fund the War

    Published: June 28th, 2012

    The closure of Pakistan’s supply routes last fall caused a spike in the costs of supplying NATO troops in Afghanistan. Now the Pentagon is seeking congressional approval to transfer $100 million per month from other defense programs to the cover increased costs of continuing the war effort. Meanwhile, the news from the ground in Afghanistan is mixed. Poppy production has declined, and the number of U.S. casualties from improvised explosive devices has dropped. But violence continues, particularly in southern Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force reports 3,000 insurgent attacks around the country in May, up 21% from May 2011.

    From ASG
    Seeking Responsible Policymakers on Afghanistan

    Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski

    Many members of Congress, including fiscal conservatives, have dropped the ball on Afghanistan policy. Rather than supporting efforts to wind down the war, Congress has voted to extend it. Rather than working to make every aid dollar count, Congress has dragged their feet on improving aid oversight.

    Afghanistan War Strategy During the Surge – Infographic

    The New York Times

    In 2009 and 2010, the United States increased its troop levels in Afghanistan by 54,000 soldiers. A majority of the first wave of reinforcements was sent to Helmand province instead of neighboring Kandahar, which was deemed to be more important strategically by the then-top U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

    10 things you didn’t know about the Afghan war

    The Washington Post

    In the 1950s, dozens of American engineers built a vast network of irrigation canals aimed at bringing modern agriculture to southern Afghanistan. Six decades later, U.S. Marines fought and died in those same canals as they sought to beat back the Taliban.

    Pentagon to seek shifts in spending

    Politico by Austin Wright

    The Defense Department plans to seek congressional approval to alter its spending to handle billions of dollars in unanticipated costs, including an additional $100 million a month to supply troops in Afghanistan.

    Building Bridges in Afghanistan

    Time’s Battleland by Mark Thompson
    Anyone who has had to live without a bridge in his or her neighborhood for awhile knows just how vital those spans can be. In Afghanistan, it turns out they’re also ripe for corruption and an ideal place to plant improvised explosive devices.

    The Folly of Nation Building

    The National Interest by Amitai Etzioni

    There is a growing consensus that the United States can’t afford another war, or even a major armed humanitarian intervention. But in reality, the cost of war itself is not the critical issue. It is the nation building following many wars that drives up the costs.

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  3. Afghanistan Weekly Reader: Closure of Pakistan Supply Routes Costs $100 Million per Month

    Published: June 14th, 2012

    Amid tensions with Afghanistan over NATO airstrikes that have caused civilian casualties, the U.S. is also facing tense negotiations with Pakistan over supply routes to Afghanistan. Ever since the November 2011 NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, Pakistan’s supply routes have been closed. The U.S. and Pakistan were reportedly close to a deal to reopen the routes several times, but the U.S. negotiators left Pakistan this Monday without an agreement.

    Pentagon officials still hope a deal can be reached. In the meantime, the U.S. must rely on routes through Central Asian countries – routes that cost up to two-and-a-half times more. Defense Secretary Panetta estimates that the Pakistan route closure costs the U.S. a staggering $100 million per month.

    From ASG
    War Costs Will Continue After 2014
    Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski

    The U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan may end in by 2014, but that doesn’t mean troops will be coming home. And it certainly doesn’t mean that war costs will end any time soon.

    Lawmakers unite in effort to end war in Afghanistan
    Army Times by Lance M. Bacon

    A bipartisan group of nine lawmakers has enlisted the help of an Army whistle-blower in their determined efforts to bring a swift end to the war in Afghanistan.

    Pentagon probes Leonie’s taxes, treatment of Afghan workers

    USA Today by Tom Vanden Brook

    Pentagon criminal investigators have launched a full probe into the military’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan regarding taxes paid by its owners and treatment of its Afghan employees.

    Military Will Soon Pay More For Former Soldiers Than Current Ones
    U.S. News & World Report by John Bennett

    The Pentagon soon will spend more on health care and other benefits for former military personnel than on the men and women fighting today’s conflicts, according to a new study.

    US legacy in Afghanistan: What 11 years of war has accomplished
    CS Monitor by Scott Baldauf

    If Americans correct past mistakes and build on achievements, they still have a chance to leave behind a country that can survive on its own. If past mistakes are repeated, the withdrawal could be a messy one indeed – and may prove an ignoble ending to one of the costlier ventures in modern American history.

    Counterinsurgency doctrine fundamentally flawed at outset
    Global Post by Jonathan Moore

    COIN extends US military beyond its competence by making it try to build a cohesive nation in Afghanistan.

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  4. Afghanistan Weekly Reader: $11 Billion for State Department War Operations in 2012

    Published: June 7th, 2012

    Secretary of Defense Panetta’s trip to Kabul yesterday made it clear that, while the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan is winding down, the war is far from over. Yesterday also marked the deadliest day this year for Afghan civilians, with a suicide attack in Kandahar City and a NATO airstrike in rural Logar Province causing at least 24 civilian deaths. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan has reached 2,000. And despite the continuing violence, the U.S. war spending shows no sign of slowing down.

    From ASG
    Congress Silent on Ending the Afghanistan War

    Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski

    Unlike their constituents, who have spoken so strongly in favor of ending the war, many elected officials are silent.

    No. 2 U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Would Like 68,000 Troops Into Next Year

    NPR by Tom Bowman

    The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will drop by 23,000 by September. At that point, 68,000 U.S. troops will be serving in the country, fighting the Taliban and training Afghan soldiers and police. Any further reductions are now at the center of a debate. It’s all a game of numbers.

    U.S. and NATO secure exit route from Afghanistan

    CNN by Mike Mount

    U.S. and NATO equipment will have a guaranteed route out of Afghanistan after an agreement with Central Asian countries allowing the alliance to completely cut out the shorter Pakistani access routes NATO has used for years.

    U.S. Cozies Up to Pakistan’s Archrival for Afghan War
    Wired by Spencer Ackerman

    In a move that could rankle Pakistan, the U.S. military is encouraging Islamabad’s arch-rival, India, to deepen its involvement in the Afghanistan war.

    And now, only one senior al Qaeda leader left
    CNN by Peter Bergen

    Few Americans harbor irrational fears about being killed by a lightning bolt. Abu Yahya al-Libi’s death on Monday should remind them that fear of al Qaeda in its present state is even more irrational.

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  5. Afghanistan Weekly Reader: Afghanistan war shipping costs $104 million per month

    Published: January 26th, 2012

    It’s been almost eight weeks since Pakistan closed its borders to coalition forces in retaliation for a NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. With the borders remaining closed the shipping costs for war supplies are adding up. NATO redirected its Pakistan supply routes through Russia and central Asia, at great expense – $104 million per month, according to the AP.  That’s six times more than it would be to utilize the Pakistan supply routes.  We are spending millions in shipping costs for a war that should have ended long ago. And we thought the price of a stamp was exorbitant.

    From ASG
    $500 billion for a stalemate
    Afghanistan Study Group by Mary Kaszynski
    Between reports of violence on the one hand, and optimistic assessments of US war efforts on the other, the American public receives contradictory and incomplete assessments on the war in Afghanistan.  Case in point: the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan.

    Taliban leader’s grip on insurgency weakens
    USA Today by Jim Michaels
    Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s grip on the insurgency is loosening as coalition battlefield successes in southern Afghanistan help sow discord among the Taliban top ranks and weaken the organization, a top U.S. commander said.

    Obama’s only way out of Afghanistan is to talk
    The Guardian by Tariq Ali

    In essence both sides confront a stalemate. The insurgents cannot win militarily, but they have made a Nato victory impossible. The US could only win the “just war” by destroying the country and wiping out a million or two Afghans – but that is politically unfeasible. Negotiations are the only possible route to a settlement and US withdrawal from the country.

    Afghanistan, An Indecent Silence
    Huffington Post by Anne Nivat
    Enter the discussion, and draw conclusions about this military engagement — it has cost us many lives, and yet it is still neither approved of or understood by the public. After ten years, we still lack clear and convincing answers.

    The Afghan War: Cause and Effect
    Time’s Battleland by Mark Thompson
    Wars are a tough sell to any nation. Long wars are a tougher sell. Long wars in a democracy are tougher still. And long wars with rising casualties in a democracy are the toughest sell of all.

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  6. $500 billion for a stalemate

    Published: January 24th, 2012

    Mary Kaszynski
    Afghanistan Study Group

    Between reports of violence on the one hand, and optimistic assessments of US war efforts on the other, the American public receives contradictory and incomplete assessments on the war in Afghanistan.  Case in point: the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan.

    Everyone seems to agree that the report indicates a divide between the intelligence community and the Pentagon – an understandable divide, as expert Robert Farley explains, that can be attributed to different metrics for success and different institutional interests. Beyond that, however, there is little agreement on the implications of the new NIE. In fact, because the document is classified, it has reinforced both sides of the debate, rather than resolve it.

    The LA Times, which first broke the story, says the NIE concludes that the war is “mired in stalemate,” and that progress from the surge is “undercut by pervasive corruption, incompetent governance and Taliban fighters operating from neighboring Pakistan.” This seems to contradict what military leaders and some defense experts have been saying. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, for example, insists that we have made“substantial progress” in the war.  ”We’re moving in the right direction and we’re winning this very tough conflict,” Panetta said in December. His optimism is shared by some defense experts. “Many Americans may still see Afghanistan as a quagmire, but there really is a strategy. And it’s beginning to work,” Michael O’Hanlon and John Nagl wrote last month.

    After the NIE, the debate is the same. Some say that the document confirms what they’ve been saying all along: the administration’s 2014 deadline is too soon, and that what we need to break the stalemate is more troops. Others say that report’s conclusion – that military gains will likely erode after the withdrawal – will speed up the timeline.

    Representatives Jim McGovern and Walter Jones have made that case for declassifying the NIE, arguing that greater transparency would help resolve the debate on the drawdown. “The American public and its elected representatives deserve to have a full understanding of the situation in and outlook for Afghanistan as understood by our government,” they wrote in a letter to the president. “Too many families of our service members are sacrificing too greatly to allow for anything else.”

    Declassifying the NIE would be a good step towards clarifying the Afghanistan debate. Even if the report stays classified, however, we can still look to the numbers for the real story.  Over $500 billion taxpayer dollars has been spent on the war. As much as $60 billion has been lost to waste and corruption. Even as troops are withdrawn, costs continue to soar – shipping costs, for example, are six times higher now that Pakistan has closed its border crossing to NATO convoys.

    And that’s just the economic side. Let’s not forget about the lives lost: some 12,500 Afghan civilians and almost 2,000 US troops killed, plus 15,000 wounded in action.

    That’s a high price to pay for a stalemate.

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  7. Priorities and Perspective: Are we Reasonably Allocating our Resources in the Af-Pak Region

    Published: December 19th, 2011
    Author: Mary Kaszynski

    Mary Kaszynski
    Afghanistan Study Group Blogger

    If you had to choose which country is the most strategically important – Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran – you might have a hard time deciding.

    On the one hand we have Pakistan: Population 175 million, the sixth largest in the world. An unstable civilian government facing off with a powerful military. A haven for insurgents – not to mention Osama bin Laden – who attack US troops across the border in Afghanistan. The extent to which Pakistani officials are complicit is unclear, although former JCS Chair Adm. Mike Mullen called the ISI “the virtual arm” of the Haqqani network. Comments like these from both countries, combined with incidents like the NATO airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, have US-Pakistan relations at an all-time low. Finally, there’s the little matter of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, which numbers some 100 weapons.

    On the other hand we have Iran, a smaller country, but arguably more unstable and potentially threatening. Jon Huntsman called Iran’s nuclear ambitions “the transcendent issue of this decade from a foreign policy standpoint.” Hyperbole? Perhaps. But there’s no question that preventing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is important.

    That leaves Afghanistan. When Newt Gingrich called Afghanistan “the least important of the three countries,” no one remarked –  because everyone is thinking the same thing. The US has already achieved its primary strategic objectives in Afghanistan; it is no longer our fight.

    This leaves us with something of a puzzle. Afghanistan represents little in terms of srategic importance – and yet 90,000 US troops are still stationed there. We have spent over one trillion dollars on the wars, and will spend $100 billion next year. War spending is a main driver of the current financial crisis.

    As one wasteful war winds down, it’s worth thinking about what our national security interests really are. Building our economy – that is vital to our national security. So is preventing Iran from building a bomb as well as preventing the dangerous situation with Pakistan from spiralling out of control. Compared to goals like these, nation-building in Afghanistan seems trivial.

    Look at it another way. An American official told New York Times’ Bill Keller: “If you stand back and say, by the year 2020, you’ve got two countries [Afghanistan and Pakistan]— 30 million people in this country, 200 million people with nuclear weapons in this country, American troops in neither. Which matters? It’s not Afghanistan.”
    In thirty years, will we look back and be glad that we spent $100 billion on Afghanistan in 2012? Or will we regret such vast expenditure in Afghanistan that was not commensurate with regional priorities?

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  8. The GOP Candidates on the Afghanistan War: “I can’t, …. I can’t, sorry. Oops.”

    Published: November 15th, 2011
    Author: Mary Kaszynski

    Mary Kaszynski
    Afghanistan Study Group Blogger

    Ninety-seven thousand (97,000) US troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan, but you might never have known that from Saturday’s debate. The Republican presidential candidates were eager to talk Iran and Pakistan, but generally fumbled their way through the few questions presented to them on Afghanistan. Here’s a breakdown of what they said – and what they should have said.

    Rick Perry: Perry’s Afghanistan strategy seems to be to give as few strategic details as possible. Asserting vaguely that “The mission must be completed there,” Perry went on to say that “The idea that we will have wasted our treasure and the lives of young Americans to not secure Afghanistan is not appropriate.” If it were up to Perry, it seems that much more blood and treasure will be spent for the nebulous goal of securing Afghanistan.

    Perry also ridiculed the idea of a drawdown timeline as “irresponsible”. Perry isn’t alone in this belief, and it’s not without strategic merit. But those who oppose a timeline are forgetting two things. First, contrary to what Perry says, the US is not “in conflict with” Afghanistan – Afghanistan is our ally in the fight against terrorism. It may seem like a technicality, but it’s important. Treating Afghanistan like an ally and partner surely means letting them in on our withdrawal plans. Secondly, the American people are paying for this war, with their lives and their taxes. Policymakers should be accountable to the public for their Afghanistan strategy, and that includes a drawdown timeline.

    According to a recent CBS poll, 53% of Americans support a drawdown. Perry would do well to listen to the public.

    Rick Santorum: Santorum certainly has a vision for victory in Afgahnistan: “The Taliban is a neutered force. They are no longer a security threat Afghan people, to our country. That would be victory.” Whether that vision is achievable at a viable cost is another question.

    With Afghanistan out of the way, Santorum pivoted rather abruptly to “the bigger issue.” “This is the most important national security issue that we’re gonna be dealing with here in this year,” he said. “And that’s the issue of Iran getting a nuclear weapon.”

    It’s worth noting that both Perry and Santorum were clearly more interested in talking about Iran than Afghanistan. Perry used half of his allotted time for Afgahnistan wrapping up his comments on Iran. Moderator Scott Pelley gave Santorum a break, acknowledging that Santorum was more interested in Iran, and actually posed Iran and Afghanistan questions simultaneously. Perhaps he suspected Santorum was going to talk about Iran no matter what the question was.

    Michelle Bachmann: Let’s give Rep. Bachmann the benefit of the doubt and assume that when she referred to “the decision that by next September, our troops will be withdrawn” she meant the surge force will be withdrawn. That is the current administration’s plan – return to pre-surge levels of 68,000 by summer 2012 and transition to local security forces by the end of 2014.

    Rep. Bachmann then made an interesting leap. If the drawdown progresses as planned, “How do we expect any of our allies to continue to work to– with us?” It’s unclear what exactly she means by this. Britain, France, and Germany have already announced plans to follow the US lead in withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

    Bachmann concluded by asking “How can we even begin to seek the peace with the Haqqani Network that are in the eastern regions?” Again, this is an inexplicable leap. The presence of US soldiers and Marines has done little to facilitate the peace process thus far and this seems unlikely to change.

    Jon Huntsman: Once again, Huntsman has shown that he can he articulate a clear stance on Afghanistan, he will stick to that position (Perry should be taking notes).

    Huntsman laid out the mission:

    “I say this nation has achieved its key objectives in Afghanistan. We’ve had free elections in 2004. We’ve uprooted the Taliban. We’ve dismantled Al Qaeda. We have killed Osama bin Laden.”
    He showed that he understands current priorities:
    “I say this nation’s future is not Afghanistan. This nation’s future is not Iraq. This nation’s future is how prepared we are to meet the 21st Century competitive challenges. That’s economic and that’s education. And that’s gonna play out over the Asia-Pacific region. And we’re either prepared for that reality or we’re not. I don’t want to be nation building in Afghanistan when this nation so desperately needs to be built.”

    And he even outlined defense requirements:

    “We still have work to do. We don’t need 100,000 troops nation building, many of whom can’t cross the wire. I think we need a component that gathers tactical intelligence. We need enhanced special forces, response capability for rapid response. And we need some ongoing commitment to train the local Afghan National Army.

    That’s not 100,000 troops. That’s well south of that. We are fighting an asymmetric threat, a counterterror threat. Not only there, but in Waziristan and every other corner of the world. And we need to prepare for that as a reality of our 21st Century foreign policy.”

    Mitt Romney: After floundering on Afghanistan policy early in his campaign, Romney seems to have come up with an answer he’s happy with: “Our surge troops should have been withdrawn by December of next year, not by December. And the timetable, by the end of 2014, is the right timetable for us to be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, other than a small footprint of support forces.”

    It’s hard not to see this answer as trying to appeal to a broad base. On the one hand, by critiquing the timeline for surge troops, he differentiates his position from the administration, and appeals to traditional hawks. But by sticking to the 2014 date, he can appeal to the fiscally minded, and the ever growing segment of the public that wants a drawdown.

    All in all, not a bad answer – but not a great answer either.

    Newt Gingrich: After the vagaries and equivocations of the other candidates, the former speaker of the House was refreshingly straightforward. “I think this is so much bigger and deeper a problem than we’ve talked about as a country that we– we don’t have a clue how hard this is gonna be,” Gingrich said. He was referring to the strategic complexities of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and a shadow war in Pakistan, but his point applies to Afghanistan policy as a whole. How hard will it be to “secure Afghanistan”? Will it take another ten years and a trillion dollars? Anyone who wants to stay in Afghanistan should consider these questions carefully.

    Herman Cain: Cain’s contribution to the discussion of Afghanistan policy was limited to noting how complicated it is. “There is a lot of clarity this whole region,” he said. Asked whether he would send US forces into Pakistan “to clear out those safe havens of the enemy,”
    Cain replied, “That is a decision that I would make after consulting with the commanders on the ground, our intelligence sources, after having discussions with Pakistan, discussions with Afghanistan. And here’s why. We pointed out earlier that it is unclear as to where we stand with Pakistan. It is unclear where we stand with Afghanistan.” A diplomatic answer, perhaps, but one would like a presidential candidate to have a greater command of the details.

    Cain finished with a valid point: “Victory is not clearly defined.” But you have to wonder if he would be able to follow through on his promise to “make sure that the mission is clear, and the definition of victory’s clear.” He certainly wasn’t able to articulate a clear mission in the debate.

    Overall, it was a disappointing showing from the GOP candidates. When they weren’t fuzzy on the details, they were dismissive. The 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan probably would not agree with Cain’s assertion that Afghanistan is less important than Iran or Pakistan. They, and all Americans, deserve better answers.

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  9. Navigating the Afghanistan Peace Process: It’s Going to be a Bumpy Road

    Published: October 26th, 2011
    Author: Mary Kaszynski

    Mary Kaszynski
    Afghanistan Study Group Blogger

    “I don’t know any peace process that hasn’t been a bumpy process,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during her trip to the Middle East last week. Her words proved timely. US-Afghanistan relations encountered a bump not two days later, when President Karzai said that Afghanistan would back Pakistan in the event of a US-Pakistan war.

    During her visit to Kabul, Sec. Clinton (never known for pulling punches when it comes to Pakistan) sent a “clear, unequivocal message to the government and the people of Pakistan that they must be part of the solution. And that means ridding their country of terrorists who kill their own people and who cross the border to kill in Afghanistan.”

    Karzai agreed, which is why his comments Sunday came as something of a surprise. “Perplexing,” some called it; Others a “rhetorical flourish.” However, the US State Department says it’s irrelevant: “It is not an issue, because it [a war] is not going to happen.”

    The explanation for Karzai’s remarks is simple, according to Afghan officials: they were misinterpreted. Karzai was referring to Pakistan’s accepting Afghani refugees, and indicating that if there were ever a need, Afghanistan would return the favor.

    It’s hardly surprising that Karzai would distance himself from the statement. In addition to the reaction he got from the West, his remarks must have raised a few eyebrows in New Delhi. India and Afghanistan recently announced a strategic framework for cooperation on a number of issues – security, but also trade, education and social ties.

    The episode was a perfect example of the complexities surrounding multi-state peace negotiations in the Af-Pak region. Afghanistan is trying to reach out to both its neighbors – which is essential if we’re to achieve peace and stability in the region – while maintaining its relationship with the US. In this case, Karzai’s attempt to show solidarity with Pakistan backfired with Western allies.

    The takeaway for the US is that the flare-up of this past weekend is typical of the peace process. As Afghanistan and Pakistan step up to the negotiating table, and take on responsibilities for regional security, we may not like everything that comes out of the process. In fact, we will have to “get realistic” about our own goals, accepting that there will be bumps along the way, and that we may not always be driving.

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  10. Afghanistan Weekly Reader: Shadow Wars

    Published: October 12th, 2011

    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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