In 2011 dollars, nine days of operations in
cost more than the entire American War for
'Afghanistan Riddle' Unsolved: The Shocking Financial Costs
year alone, the Afghan campaign will have cost Washington as much as the
Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the
Spanish-American War combined (in fiscal year 2011 dollars). Now for the same
cost as the War of Independence, all America can do is entangle itself deeper
into its Afghan venture."
Since the time of Genghis
Khan, several empires have tried to solve the "riddle of Afghanistan.” The
latest were the English and Soviet. And they left with nothing for their pains.
Now, having stepped into the Taliban trap, the Americans are the ones that have
stumbled. This year alone, the Afghan campaign will have cost Washington as
much as the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War,
and the Spanish-American War combined (in fiscal year 2011 dollars). According
to the U.S.
Congressional Research Service, with the exception of World War II, the war
in Afghanistan is the most expensive war in American history.
“Not since Theseus fought the Minotaur in his maze has a
fight been so confounding,” believes the New
York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. But Theseus bested the Minotaur,
whereas the Taliban Minotaur is besting the American Theseus. Recently,
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari told Le Monde in an interview: “The
international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is losing the war to the
Taliban,” and said the reason for the defeat is that, “we lost the battle for
the hearts and minds of Afghans.”
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration
is betting solely on military force. Military spending under President Bush
were astronomical. But now it's President Obama demanding that they increase.
Congress recently approved a bill that allows $37 billion to finance the Afghan
War. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has tripled during Obama’s
A few more statistics to
clarify the picture and add perspective. The Second World War cost America $4.1
trillion. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan - $1.15 trillion. But during World
War II, there were 16.1 million Americans under arms, whereas now there are
only 2.1 million. The Vietnam War cost America $738 billion; Korea, $341 billion;
the First World War, $334 billion; the First Gulf War, $102 billion (data from
the Pentagon and the U.S. Congressional Research Service). Progress in military
technology is an expensive indulgence. During the War of Independence, America
had a fleet of 36 frigates with cannons aboard. Now it has destroyers that cost
$3.5 billion each. The annual "cost" of one American soldier in
Afghanistan is $1.1 million. (During the Second World War it was $67,000; in
Vietnam it was $132,000).
Such financial bloodlettings are
hard to imagine. The United States, which quite recently occupied first place
in the world in the number of people with a higher education, has fallen to 12th
place. And betting on force turns out to be counterproductive even in
Afghanistan. The budget for maintaining one GI in Afghanistan could be used to build
20 schools there. By the way, attacks on Afghan schools are taboo, even for the
Taliban. The humanitarian organization CARE has 300 schools in Afghanistan, and
not one of them has been destroyed by the Taliban. Even they understand that
the building of schools promotes Afghan statehood more than the use of rockets.
The cost of a single cruise missile is equal to that of 11 schools.
The cost of supporting 246
American soldiers would finance Afghanistan's entire system of higher
education. And rebuilding its economy and social structures would amount to a
quarter of one percent of America's 2010 military expenditures in Afghanistan.
And finally, one last point.
The War of Independence cost Americans the equivalent of $2.4 billion. That's
equal to the cost of nine days of the Pentagon's military operations in
Afghanistan. But then, for $2.4 billion, America obtained its independence. Now
for the same price, all such sums can do is entangle it deeper into its Afghan
the Afghan riddle.
*Melor Sturua is an award-winning Soviet and Russian journalist. He now resides in