Cost of Afghan War: $50 Million Per Dead Taliban

US War in Afghanistan entered its tenth year this week, making it the longest war in US history.

What began as a US-Saudi-Pakistani sponsored anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and led to the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001, is now threatening to engulf Africa, Central Asia, Middle East and South Asia in its growing flames. And its effects are continuing to be strongly felt in America and Europe.

The victorious veterans of the 1980s Afghan resistance have successfully indoctrinated and trained several generations of battle-hardened global jihadis to take on the United States and various pro-Western governments in Islamic nations in all parts of the world. This trend is accelerating as the US steps up its attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according a recent report in Newsweek magazine. Here is an excerpt from its report:

"The Central Asians retreated to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the late 1990s after failing to topple their home governments. Now they seem ready to try again, using guerrilla tactics and know-how they’ve picked up from the Taliban about improvised explosive devices. Small groups of Tajik and Uzbek militants began moving into Tajikistan in late winter 2009, says a Taliban subcommander in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz. In Kunduz they joined up with fighters from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Qaeda-linked group active there and in Tajikistan. “Once these first groups made it back safely [to Tajikistan], they signaled to militants here in Kunduz and even in Pakistan’s tribal areas that the journey was possible,” the subcommander, who didn’t want to be named for security reasons, tells Newsweek."

As the war expands, it is now worth pondering over the current and future costs of what appears to be an interminable war on terror, and consider alternative approaches, including greater use of soft power.

Even if most Americans choose to assign no value to the lives of many poor Afghan and Pakistani civilians killed as "collateral", here is an analysis by a blogger at kabulpress.org of the exorbitant financial cost of the US war in Afghanistan to the American taxpayers:

The estimated cost to kill each Taliban is as high as $100 million, with a conservative estimate being $50 million.

1. Taliban Field Strength: 35,000 troops

2. Taliban Killed Per Year by Coalition forces: 2,000 (best available information)

3. Pentagon Direct Costs for Afghan War for 2010: $100 billion

4. Pentagon Indirect Costs for Afghan War for 2010: $100 billion

Using the fact that 2,000 Taliban are being killed each year and that the Pentagon spends $200 billion per year on the war in Afghanistan, one simply has to divide one number into the other. That calculation reveals that $100 million is being spent to kill each Taliban soldier. In order to be conservative, the author decided to double the number of Taliban being killed each year by U.S. and NATO forces (although the likelihood of such being true is unlikely). This reduces the cost to kill each Taliban to $50 million, which is the title of this article. The final number is outrageously high regardless of how one calculates it.

To put this information another way, using the conservative estimate of $50 million to kill each Taliban:

It costs the American taxpayers $1 billion to kill 20 Taliban

As the U.S. military estimates there to be 35,000 hard-core Taliban and assuming that no reinforcements and replacements will arrive from Pakistan and Iran:

Just killing the existing Taliban would cost $1.75 Trillion, not including the growing numbers of new Taliban recruits joining every day.

The reason for these exorbitant costs is that United States has the world’s most mechanized, computerized, weaponized and synchronized military, not to mention the most pampered (at least at Forward Operating Bases). An estimated 150,000 civilian contractors support, protect, feed and cater to the American personnel in Afghanistan, which is an astonishing number. The Americans enjoy such perks and distinctions in part because no other country is willing to pay (waste) so much money on their military.

The ponderous American war machine is a logistics nightmare and a maintenance train wreck. It is also part-myth. This author served at a senior level within the U.S. Air Force. Air Force “smart” bombs are no way near as consistently accurate as the Pentagon boasts; Army mortars remain inaccurate; even standard American field rifles are frequently outmatched by Taliban weapons, which have a longer range. The American public would pale if it actually learned the full story about the poor quality of the weapons and equipment that are being purchased with its tax dollars. The Taliban’s best ally within the United States may be the Pentagon, whose contempt for fiscal responsibility and accountability may force a premature U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Americans cannot continue to fund these Pentagon excesses.


The blogger argues that "if President Obama refuses to drastically reform the Pentagon’s inefficient way of making war, he may conclude that the Taliban is simply too expensive an enemy to fight. He would then have little choice but to abandon the Afghan people to the Taliban’s “Super-Soldiers.” That would be an intolerable disgrace".

Regardless of the killing efficiency of Pentagon's war machine, I do not think that the United States can win this war by military means alone. It's time for the American leadership to go beyond rhetoric and seriously implement its 80/20 strategy. The 80/ 20 rule, as outlined by General Petraeus, calls for 80% emphasis on the political/economic effort backed by 20% military component to fight the Taliban insurgency in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. This rule has led many to speculate about a US-backed "Marshall Plan" style effort to help Afghanistan and Pakistan expand the economic opportunity for their young and growing population, vulner able to exploitation by extremists.

I believe that the US has a stark choice in Afghanistan: Either spend %1.75 trillion on a losing war, or $200 billion in development funds to bring peace and honorable exit.

Just the long-neglected education and heathcare sectors can easily absorb tens of billions of dollars a year in Pakistan through government and non-government agencies.

In spite of all of the corruption and inefficiencies, the money will still be better spent on improving the lives of common people to live in peace than on war where the private defense contractors are looting the taxpayers in broad day light.

The need is great, and the funds are scarce in infrastructure projects. Massive funds are needed in clean water, sanitation, roads, bridges, power plants, schools and clinics projects to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals.

If America can get people busy doing productive work, there will be no need to kill them to try and win wars.

I highly recommend books like "Three Cups of Tea" and "Turning Stones into Schools" by Greg Mortenson to get a sense of what I am talking about.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

80/20 Strategy and Marshall Plan For Pakistan

UN Millennium Development Goals

Twentieth Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

US Afghan Exit: Trigger for India to Talk to Pakistan?

Facts and Myths about Afghanistan and Pakistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Steph en Cohen on India-Pakistan Relations

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Obama's New Regional Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?

Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?

FATA Faceoff Fears

FATA Raid Charades

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
The former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, has warned Nato that victory in Afghanistan is "impossible", according to a BBC report.

Mr Gorbachev said that the US had no alternative but to withdraw its forces if it wanted to avoid another Vietnam.

As Soviet leader, he pulled his troops out of Afghanistan more than 20 years ago after a 10-year war.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said troops would not be withdrawn from the country until their "very difficult" work was complete.

In an interview with the BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, Mr Gorbachev praised President Barack Obama for his decision to begin withdrawing troops next year, but said the US would struggle to get out of the situation.

"Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be," Mr Gorbachev said.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11633646
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan's president has finally realized and stated that US presence in Afghanistan is destabilizing Pakistan in an interview with the the Guardian newspaper:

"Just as the Mexican drug war on US borders makes a difference to Texas and American society, we are talking about a war on our border which is obviously having a huge effect. Only today a suicide bomber has attacked a police compound in Baluchistan. I think it [the Afghan war] has an effect on the entire region, and specially our country," Zardari said.

Asked about harsh criticism of Pakistan's co-operation in the "war on terror" published in a White House report last week, Zardari said Pakistan always listened to Washington's views. But he suggested some members of Congress and the US media did not know what they were talking about when it came to Pakistan.

"The United States has been an ally of Pakistan for the last 60 years. We respect and appreciate their political system. So every time a new parliament comes in, new boys come in, new representatives come in, it takes them time to understand the international situation. Not Obama, but the Congress, interest groups and the media get affected by 'deadline-itis' [over ending the Afghan war]," Zardari said.

"I think it is maybe 12 years since America has become engaged in Afghanistan and obviously everybody's patience is on edge, especially the American public, which is looking for answers. There are no short-term answers and it is very difficult to make the American taxpayer understand."
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"Our emphasis has been on security rather than our commerce and we need commerce for our survival.

"We have all the gas in the world waiting to go through to markets in India and the Red Sea but it cannot be brought in until Afghanistan is settled. So Afghanistan is a growth issue for us. I think most of the time, the quantification of the effect of the war is not calculated [by the US].
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According to senior intelligence officials, the "war on terror" has cost the Pakistani economy approximately $68bn (£42bn) since 2001.

More than 33,300 Pakistani civilians and military personnel have been killed or seriously injured. Last year's record-breaking floods added to the strain on the economy.

Zardari said the security situation was also undercutting efforts to strengthen democratic institutions bypassed or overturned during the military rule of his predecessor, General Pervez Musharraf. "Democracy is evolving. It's a new democracy. It takes time to bring institutions back. Destroying institutions during a decade of dictatorial regime is easy ... So there is a political impact as well as an economic impact."

Pakistani officials say relations with the US reached a "low ebb" following the recent row over Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis; a CIA drone attack in Pakistan's tribal areas last month that accidentally killed dozens of civilian elders meeting in a jirga (council), and Pakistan's suspicions that it is being excluded from discussions about an Afghan peace deal.

Zardari, who is expected to visit Washington next month, said he would ask Obama to share drone technology with Pakistan so future attacks could be planned and directed under a "Pakistani flag". Although this request had been turned down in the past, he said he was hopeful the Americans would be more receptive this time, given the huge anger and rising anti-American feeling that the drone attacks were causing.

Zardari and other senior government officials said all parties felt a sense of growing urgency about forging an inclusive peace settlement in Afghanistan, but the process must be "Afghan-led". Pakistan was ready to play its part, consistent with its national interest, they said.
..
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a BBC report quoting Pakistan Human Rights Commission claiming 2500 deaths in militant violence in 2010:

More than 2,500 people were killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in 2010, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Nearly half of victims were civilians killed in suicide blasts. There were 67 such attacks last year, the group said.

The report also said at least 900 people had been killed in US drone strikes during the same period.

The number of people killed by the army is not mentioned, but it estimated to be in the region of 600-700.

Pakistani troops are battling insurgents across the north-west. Many of those it has killed are believed to be militants, but civilian lives have been lost too.

The HRCP is the main human rights watchdog in the country. Its findings are often disputed by the authorities, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says.

The group's findings show a rise in the numbers being killed in Pakistan's conflict.

BBC research published last July suggested 1,713 people had been killed by militants over the preceding 18 months, while 746 people had died in drone attacks during the same period.
'Increasing intolerance'

The HRCP released its data in its annual report on the state of human rights and security in Pakistan between January and December 2010.

"Pakistan's biggest problem continues to be violence carried out militants," HRCP chairman Mehdi Hasan said.

"In 2010, 67 suicide attacks were carried out across the country in which 1,169 people were killed," he said. "At least 1,000 of those were civilians."

Dr Hasan said that in all 2,542 people had been killed in militant attacks in the country last year.

He said the most glaring example of government oversight had been in Balochistan province, where targeted killings shot up rapidly with 118 people being killed in 2010.

Dr Hasan said the figure was set to increase in 2011, as the government seemed unconcerned about the unravelling of the law and order situation in Balochistan.

The HRCP report also spoke about increasing intolerance against religious minorities in the country.

It said 99 members of the Ahmedi (Qadiani) sect had been killed in attacks in 2010, while 64 people had been charged under the country's blasphemy law.

There was no immediate response to the report from the Pakistani authorities, nor was there any word from militant groups.
Riaz Haq said…
The US cost of war id $3.7 trillion and counting, reports Reuters:

If the financial costs are elusive, so too is the human toll.

The report estimates between 224,475 and 257,655 have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, though those numbers give a false sense of precision. There are many sources of data on civilian deaths, most with different results.

The civilian death toll in Iraq -- 125,000 -- and the number of Saddam's security forces killed in invasion -- 10,000 -- are loose estimates. The U.S. military does not publish a thorough accounting.

"We don't do body counts," Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, famously said after the fall of Saddam in 2003.

In Afghanistan, the civilian death count ranges from 11,700 to 13,900. For Pakistan, where there is little access to the battlefield and the United States fights mostly through aerial drone attacks, the study found it impossible to distinguish between civilian and insurgent deaths.

The numbers only consider direct deaths -- people killed by bombs or bullets. Estimates for indirect deaths in war vary so much that researchers considered them too arbitrary to report.

"When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues. It's in fact worse than land mines. The healthcare system is still in bad shape. People are still suffering the effects of malnutrition and so on," Crawford said.

Even where the United States does do body counts -- for the members of the military -- the numbers may come up short of reality, said Lutz, the study's co-director. When veterans return home, they are more likely to die in suicides and automobile accidents.

"The rate of chaotic behavior," she said, "is high." (Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Missy Ryan, Brett Gering, Laura MacInnis and Sharon Reich; Editing by Doina Chiacu)


http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/29/usa-war-idUSN1E75R1DP20110629

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