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Get out, or invest more ...
September 8, 2009 - Jim Anderson
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., says he cannot support an open-ended commitment to an escalating war in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda operatives, he argues, have largely been captured or killed or crossed the border into Pakistan.
Feingold fears that our massive military presence in Afghanistan is counterproductive, driving more extremists into Pakistan, which is al-Qaeda’s primary sanctuary.
The cost for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2009 totals about $228 billion. That works out to more than $8,000 for every man, woman and child in Afghanistan.
Conservative columnist George Will pointed out recently that Afghanistan’s $23 billion annual gross domestic product is the size of Boise’s. Will is also among those arguing for a substantial reduction in troop levels. (“Time to get out of Afghanistan,” Washington Post, Sept. 1)
President Obama has asked for $68 billion in Defense Department spending in Afghanistan next year, which is about three times that nation’s estimated gross domestic product. And about $2,400 for every man, woman and child.
At tomdispatch.com, Tom Engelhardt reports that that the unemployment rate in Afghanistan, according to the CIA World Factbook, was 40 percent in 2008.
The daily wage the Taliban reputedly pays its fighters is $4 to $8, Engelhardt notes. At the top figure, that works out to about $3,000 for the year.
In Roll Call magazine, Rick Reyes, a retired Marine corporal who served as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan, recently wrote:
“As a corporal in the U.S. Marines — who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who remains willing to give my life for this country — let me say from experience that our current strategy will not bring security to Afghanistan or to America."
The war, he continued, has created “too many civilian casualties, too many children without food and women without husbands, too many innocent Afghans becoming anti-American because of our action.”
All that, at a cost of $8,000 per person in an impoverished nation. And counting.
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