FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Costs of the Afghanistan War

by WINSLOW T. WHEELER

Telling us how many dollars have been spent on the war in Afghanistan is fundamental to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) effort to garner public and congressional support for prosecution of the war. It should also be a simple question. It is not.

The Department of Defense (DOD) testified to Congress on July 31, 2007 that the war in Afghanistan had cost $78.1 billion. The seeming precision of the decimal point notwithstanding, the number is laughably inaccurate. Here’s why:

The 78.1 billion is DOD “obligations” as of May 2007. Obligations are neither Congress’s appropriations nor the amount DOD has actually spent. Instead, DOD describes them as “orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, or similar transactions that will require payments.” In short, obligations are what DOD thinks it might spend. For DOD’s obligations for Afghanistan going as far back as 2001, there has been no effort by the department to document what was actually spent.

The obligations declared by DOD for Afghanistan are not just for Afghanistan. They are for Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes Afghanistan but also DOD operations in the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and “elsewhere” (DOD’s term). The Defense Department has not informed the public, or apparently even Congress, how those costs break down.

DOD’s obligations also do not include transfers of funds from regular, annual appropriations from the non-war part of the DOD budget. These may be as much as $7 billion for both Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also an additional $5.5 billion that analysts at the Congressional Research Services (CRS) believe was made available for expenditure in Iraq and Afghanistan but which no one has been able to track.

DOD’s figures also do not include classified intelligence activities. According to CRS, Congress appropriated $27 billion for intelligence efforts related to both Iraq and Afghanistan. The breakdown between the two is unknown to the public and perhaps to Congress.

DOD’s figures also do not include the costs incurred by the State Department for diplomatic operations and reconstruction aid in Afghanistan and it does not include costs to the Veterans Administration (VA) to care for the US wounded coming home from there. The future VA cost to care for Afghan War veterans is only beginning to accrue now; it will be many billions of dollars.

Funding for Iraq and Afghanistan has included huge amounts that have little or no real relationship to the wars. This spending includes piles of money for C-17, C-130J, V-22 and other aircraft that would see the skies over either theater only if the wars are still raging three to five years from now when these aircraft actually come off their production lines. Several billions of dollars have also been requested to fund the Army’s reorganization into “modular” brigades– a plan that precedes the wars by several years and that would be funded without them. Despite their weak relationship to the fighting, this and other problematic spending has all appeared in Congress’ “emergency” appropriations for the wars and, thus, should be included in the accounting of the funding for them.

DOD has combined whatever records it retains for money spent in Afghanistan with the money spent for all other DOD purposes. As such, the money actually spent for Afghanistan– and Iraq– cannot be separated and identified; it is unknown today, and thanks to DOD’s record keeping it is unknowable for the ages.

Surveying this fiscal junkyard in its May 18 report to Congress, “Global War on Terror: Reported Obligations for the Department of Defense,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) termed DOD’s spending data on the wars “to be of questionable reliability” and “should be considered approximations.” The auditors at GAO are well practiced at understatement on such subjects.

Rather than just curse the darkness, CRS has attempted to sort through the morass to make estimates of what has been available to DOD for Afghanistan under the moniker Operation Enduring Freedom. The latest results, from CRS’ “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11, Updated July 16, 2007,” are shown in the table below:

Appropriations Estimated by CRS for Operation Enduring Freedom, $Billions, Current Dollars, by Fiscal Year.

Year

More articles by:

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail