Wednesday, March 31, 2004

DOD CONFUSION: When I was discussing the amount of aid the United States gives to the Afghan government, I noted that most "requests refer to 'Iraq and Afghanistan' or 'the global war on terrorism,' so it’s not clear how much money is going to what country." Linda Bilmes, in the Financial Times, elaborates a bit.

Just how much is being spent in Afghanistan is unclear. The mountainous terrain and the absence of transport infrastructure make it about three times more expensive to keep a soldier on the ground there than in Iraq. The Bush administration has gone out of its way to conceal the magnitude of the campaign by burying its military appropriation deep within the Iraq budget supplementals and "reprogramming" slivers of leftover money from other programmes. In an unusual move, President George W. Bush's two supplemental military budgets since September 11 2001, totalling $152bn, gave the administration complete discretion to spend the money either in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The Defense Department is not required to provide a breakdown of funding for each operation. However, informed guesses put the total cost of US operations in Afghanistan to date as high as $40bn.
If the $40 billion figure is correct, the cost of military operations in Afghanistan is ten times the amount of aid that is given to Afghanistan. Worth thinking about.

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