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Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

New Afghan War Plans Could Cost US Taxpayers an Extra $125 Billion

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

by: Ben Arnoldy   |  The Christian Science Monitor | Report

New Delhi – As leaders at the NATO summit in Lisbon meet this weekend to discuss strategy in Afghanistan, US war planners have been signaling that troop withdrawals set to begin in 2011 will be mostly symbolic and that the handover to Afghan forces in 2014 is “aspirational.”

Such could cost American taxpayers handsomely at a time when deficit cutting has gripped Washington. According to one estimate, softening those deadlines could add at least $125 billion in war spending – not including long-term costs like debt servicing and health care for veterans.

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“I don’t think anyone is seriously talking about cutting war funding as a way of handling the deficit,” says Todd Harrison, a defense funding expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But higher war costs “could hurt the base defense budget [and] the rest of the discretionary budget.”

A Shift in US Deadlines

Currently there are some 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan, which includes the 30,000 troop surge announced by President Obama in December 2009. At that time, the president also said the US would “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”

Such was interpreted by many Americans and Afghans to be a significant withdrawal in 2011. In recent months, with the situation in Afghanistan showing few signs of stabilizing, US officials have focused more on 2014 as the date for withdrawal.

Speaking at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Mr. Obama described the timeline as “a transition to Afghan responsibility beginning in 2011 with Afghan forces taking the lead for security across Afghanistan by 2014.”

But the Pentagon on Thursday said the goal of handing over security duties to the Afghans in 2014 was “aspirational.”

“Although the hope is, the goal is, to have Afghan security forces in the lead over the preponderance of the country by then, it does not necessarily mean that … everywhere in the country they will necessarily be in the lead,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Crunching the Numbers

So how much extra would it cost if the bulk of the withdrawal starts rather than finishes around 2014? About $125 billion, says Mr. Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, at that’s just through 2014. He uses two different troop level scenarios – one high, and one low. He calculates costs based $1.1 million per soldier per year, which reflects the five-year average in Afghanistan.

The lower cost – $288 billion – assumes that the troops involved in Obama’s surge would be withdrawn by 2012, and that by the end of 2014 only 30,000 US troops would remain. The higher cost – $413 billion – assumes no drawdown will happen until 2013, and 70,000 US troops would remain by the end of 2014. The difference: $125 billion.

Another defense analyst, Anthony Cordesman with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has a slightly higher estimate at $441 billion. That jumps to $476.5 billion by including State Department expenses and immediate medical costs for veterans.

But he says nothing can be read into the talk about 2014.

“The nice thing about 2014 politically is that by then you’ve either won, in which case the deadline doesn’t really matter anymore … or if you haven’t succeeded you are out any way,” Dr. Cordesman says.

Both Harrison and Cordesman caution that future cost estimates are difficult to make.

“There’s no good way of doing it,” says Harrison. “It depends on intensity of operations, the number of troops we have deployed, and it also depends on the mission that we give them.”

Some missions are more costly. For instance, the Pentagon has reportedly decided to dispatch tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the war. That will add to the price tag given the fuel and transport costs.

“The enemy [also] gets a voice how much this is going to cost us,” says Harrison.

War Spending in Cost-Conscious Washington

For its part, the Defense Department has not tipped its hand to the bean counters. Pentagon estimates for supplemental budget requests for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) – Afghanistan and Iraq – contain low placeholders of $50 billion annually starting in 2012. The request for 2011 is $159 billion.

The guessing game over the OCO does not factor in all the total costs of a war. One of the biggest unknowns is the cost of medical care for veterans decades down the line. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have argued that health care for Iraq war veterans will top $600 billion. Other costs beyond operations, like debt servicing and macroeconomic factors, could drive that war’s total cost over $3 trillion.

In Afghanistan, the US will also be paying for many years to support the Afghan security forces that it trains because their cost exceeds Kabul’s revenues.

But focusing solely on the OCO costs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost a combined $1.1 trillion to date. Adjusting for inflation, that’s more than any US conflict except World War II.

Cordesman points out that as a percentage of GDP, current defense spending and war costs are historically low. Iraq and Afghanistan together consume about 1.2 percent of America’s GDP. By contrast, in their peak years of conflict, World War II consumed 35.8 percent of American GDP and the Vietnam War consumed 2.3 percent of GDP.

Harrison, too, says the $125 billion over four years is nowhere near the scale of the US’s annual trillion-plus deficit.

But others say war spending will heat up as a topic in deficit-conscious Washington – particularly when the Pentagon has to put forth real numbers early next year rather than placeholders for 2012 war spending.

“When that happens in a Congress where they are counting every penny – or I guess every billion – to suddenly show up and say we kind of misestimated this, it’s going to be triple what we said, that’s going to be embarrassing to say,” says Charles Knight, co-director Project on Defense Alternatives.

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WikiLeaks Announces Release 7x the Size of the Iraq War

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Picture of Julian Assange during a talk at 26C3

Logs

Stan Schroeder

WikiLeaks has announced an important release on its Twitter account, claiming it’ll be seven times bigger than the Iraq war logs, which are widely considered to be the biggest military leak in history.

“Next release is 7x the size of the Iraq War Logs. intense pressure over it for months. Keep us strong” was the message posted to the Wikileaks Twitter account earlier today.

The message was followed by an even bolder statement two hours later: “The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined.”

WikiLeaks is an organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents, keeping the sources anonymous. It has published nearly 500,000 secret U.S. documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange found himself in the center of a rape scandal. The rape charges against him were initially dropped, but the case still looms over Assange’s head, with the Swedish court recently approving a motion to bring him into custody for questioning.

No details about the upcoming release have been revealed, but the fact that it was mentioned in the same context as the Iraq war logs points to another military-related leak. What do you think Wikileaks will announce? Please, share your opinions in the comments.

Copyright © 2010 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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Canada considers extending Afghanistan mission

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

8 November 2010 Last updated at 13:33 ET

Canadian troops rescue an injured Afghan civilian More than 150 Canadian troops have died in Afghanistan, according to a tally by icasualties.org

Canada is poised to extend its military commitment in Afghanistan for three years beyond a withdrawal deadline of July 2011, officials have said.

The Conservative-led government may leave non-combat troops to support a Nato training mission, officials said.

Canada has about 3,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Canada has come under international pressure not to pull out at a time when the US is boosting its military commitment.

The Canadian Press agency reported Prime Minister Stephen Harper was expected to make a decision before a Nato summit in Lisbon on 18 November.

“Knowing that the mission in Afghanistan has work that is yet to be done, we are now considering this,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay told reporters on Sunday. “Training is an option and it’s something we’re very good at.”

The troops would train Afghan army and police units, Mr McKay said.

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‘US targets civilians in Kandahar’

November 8, 2010 Leave a comment

US-led forces in Afghanistan
US-led foreign forces have once again been criticized for military operations that have led to death and destruction in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

A human rights group says civilian casualties have spiked since operations started in Kandahar province in early September.

The Afghan Rights Monitor (ARM) says the US-led campaign in Kandahar has destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses.

It says US-led NATO forces have used aerial bombings, hidden booby traps and mines in private homes.

According to the rights group, most of the attacks have been carried out in areas that hold about one-third of Kandahar province’s population.

Tens of thousands of Afghan and foreign troops have been fighting the Taliban in Kandahar province to flush militants out of the region.

The developments come as the US and its allies step up a bombing campaign in the troubled southern Afghanistan.

US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan are currently continuing with their massive military operation in the volatile region.

Witnesses have recently told Press TV that NATO forces have dropped more bombs on villages they assume Taliban militants are hiding in, inflicting extensive damage to civilian properties.

The Western military alliance says it is experimenting with a new powerful bomb during the operation.

More than one-hundred thousand Afghans have been killed since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

The loss of civilian lives at the hand of foreign forces has led to a dramatic increase in anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan.

There are currently more than 150,000 US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan.

US-led forces have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan under Washington’s new war strategy that aims to reduce its military presence next year.

JR/MB

 

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Somalia tops the most corrupt list

October 27, 2010 Leave a comment

News
Iraq and Afghanistan among most corrupt nations in the world and United States slips down from top twenty least corrupt.
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2010 03:06 GMT
A report has placed Afghanistan as the second most corrupt nation in the world [GALLO/GETTY]

Somalia is the most corrupt country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq, an international watchdog has said.

In its annual report released on Tuesday, Transparency International found Somalia to be most corrupt country, topping a list of the 178 countries surveyed.

MOST CORRUPT COUNTRIES
1. Somalia (1.1)
2. Myanmar & Afghanistan (1.4)
4. Iraq (1.5)
5. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan & Sudan (1.6)
8. Chad (1.7)
9. Burundi (1.8)
10. Equatorial Guinea (1.9)

Source: Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2010.

The international watchdog found almost 75 per cent of the countries to be in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).

These findings indicate a serious  worldwide corruption problem and highlight the need to make more efforts to towards strong governance structures across the globe.

‘Worrying situation’

Edda Mueller, the head of Transparency International’s German section, said that the overall international situation was “very worrying”.

“There are clear indications that the more unstable a country is, the higher the level of corruption.”

And at the other end of the scale, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore shared the top slot as the least corrupt nations.

They were followed by Finland, Sweden, Canada and the Netherlands.

LEAST CORRUPT COUNTRIES
1. Denmark, New Zealand & Singapore (9.3)
4. Finland & Sweden (9.2)
6. Canada (8.9)
7. Netherlands (8.8)
8. Australia & Switzerland (8.7)
10. Norway (8.6)

Source: Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2010.

The study also identified the countries that have successfully fought corruption and have shown an improvement in the rankings.

These include Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and Macedonia.

Chile and Uruguay were rated the least-corrupt countries in Latin America, while the best ranking in the Middle East was given to Qatar.

Mueller said that the performance of these countries should serve as hope and inspiration for countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report found that some countries that were hit hard by the the global economic crisis became more corrupt during the last year. Greece and Italy feature in this category together with the United States, which has dropped its position from 19th to 22nd in the last year.

Transparency International has identified corruption as a major hindrance in fighting major problems like the financial crisis and climate change.

It has advocated stricter implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the only global initiative that provides a framework for putting and end to corruption.

Transparency International’s corruption index is based on 13 different surveys of business people and governance experts conducted between January 2009 and September 2010.

 

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Militants torch NATO trucks in Pakistan

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:59PM
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Pakistani militants have torched tankers carrying supplies to the US-led foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan for the second time in less than 24 hours.

Police say the gunmen targeted two vehicles in Dasht Bado town in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province on Tuesday.

The attack comes a day after three NATO supply trucks were set on fire in the same province.

Two men riding a motorbike set fire to the tankers after “forcing the drivers and their helpers to leave,” Reuters quoted a police official as saying.

Dozens of NATO supply tankers and trucks have been set on fire in Pakistan this month.

Pro-Taliban militants usually claim responsibility for such attacks. They argue that the assaults are in retaliation for non-UN-sanctioned US drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal region.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militants have stepped up attacks on convoys carrying supplies for US-led forces.

DB/MB/MMN

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US-led airstrike kills 18 in Afghanistan

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

US-led forces during an air patrol in Afghanistan
A fresh US-led airstrike has killed at least 18 people and wounded several others in the troubled northeastern regions of Afghanistan.

NATO issued a statement, saying that the Sunday airstrike targeted a senior Taliban commander in Baghlan Province but added that it could not be verified whether the target had been killed in the attack.

Meanwhile, eye-witnesses and local sources said all those killed in the attack were civilians.

Afghan officials have repeatedly demanded a halt to the attacks. Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and ground operations in different parts of the war-ravaged country over the past months.

A large number of civilians have fallen victim to the air raids since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO attacks are a major source of tension between the US-led foreign forces and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is under increasing pressure at home over the unpopular war.

The loss of civilian lives at the hand of foreign forces has dramatically increased anti-American sentiments in Afghanistan.

JR/CS/MMN

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