Afghan War (Part VII?) Breaks Spending Rate In Iraq War

Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry – There Ain’t But One Way


US taxpayers shelled out $6.7 billion for the Afghan war in February, the most recent month for which statistics are available, as opposed to $5.5 billion for the war in Iraq. The total cost for the two wars is now approaching $1 trillion.

Petrol and expensive hardware deployed in Afghanistan seem to be burning through spending bills more than anything else:

The amount spent for each US soldier now costs American taxpayers roughly $1,000,000 a year, according to a report published in October 2009. The cost is so high in part because fuel and other supplies must be transported in some cases by helicopter in special bladders. In some areas it is difficult to supply troops without airlifts.

In 2006, Congressional researchers estimated that the accumulated costs for each soldier in Afghanistan would be about $390,000. The sharp rise in costs reflects the increase in mine-resistant troop carriers and surveillance equipment, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The unique difficulties of transporting soldiers around the mountainous, isolated terrain in Afghanistan also burdens U.S. taxpayers, military analysts say.

Last November there was attention to something Speaker of the House Pelosi entertained called the Share the Sacrifice Act that would impose a tax on corporations and individuals to cover the expense of the current Afghan war. From Politico’s "Pay as you fight":

After months of listening to conservatives caterwaul over deficits and health care, senior House Democrats want a graduated surtax on individuals and corporations to pay for another big drain on the treasury: the Afghanistan war.

Three full committee chairmen — including the House’s top tax writer, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — are backing the initiative together with the chair of the party caucus, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), and close allies of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The speaker has been silent thus far, and many dismiss the idea as more rhetoric than real legislation. But with President Barack Obama due to make a final decision soon on adding more U.S. troops, the initiative testifies to the growing restlessness among Democrats over the costs of the American commitment in Afghanistan.

This latest attempt to subdue Afghanistan is part of a long history that reaches back beyond the Soviet Union debacle. From Frederick Engel’s review JW Kaye’s history of the Anglo-Afghan war of 1838-42 and other wars in Afghanistan:

The conquest of Afghanistan seemed accomplished, and a considerable portion of the troops was sent back. But the Afghans were noways content to be ruled by the Feringhee Kaffirs (European infidels), and during the whole of 1840 and ’41, insurrection followed on insurrection in every part of the country. The Anglo-Indian troops had to be constantly on the move. Yet, McNaghten declared this to be the normal state of Afghan society, and wrote home that every thing went on well, and Shah Soojah’s power was taking root. In vain were the warnings of the military officers and the other political agents. Dost Mohammed had surrendered to the British in October, 1840, and was sent to India; every insurrection during the summer of ’41 was successfully repressed, and toward October, McNaghten, nominated governor of Bombay, intended leaving with another body of troops for India. But then the storm broke out. The occupation of Afghanistan cost the Indian treasury £1,250,000 per annum: 16,000 troops, Anglo-Indian, and Shah Soojah’s, had to be paid in Afghanistan; 3,000 more lay in Sinde, and the Bolan Pass; Shah Soojah’s regal splendours, the salaries of his functionaries, and all expenses of his court and government, were paid by the Indian treasury, and finally, the Afghan chiefs were subsidized, or rather bribed, from the same source, in order to keep them out of mischief. McNaghten was informed of the impossibility of going on at this rate of spending money. He attempted retrenchment, but the only possible way to enforce it was to cut down the allowances of the chiefs. The very day he attempted this, the chiefs formed a conspiracy for the extermination of the British, and thus McNaghten himself was the means of bringing about the concentration of those insurrectionary forces, which hitherto had struggled against the invaders singly, and without unity or concert; though it is certain, too, that by this time the hatred of British dominion among the Afghans had reached the highest point.


The Bala Hissar was, even now, not occupied. A few companies were sent against the thousands of insurgents, and of course were beaten. This still more emboldened the Afghans. Nov. 3, the forts close to the camp were occupied. On the 9th, the commissariat fort (garrisoned by only 80 men) was taken by the Afghans, and the British were thus reduced to starvation. On the 5th, Elphinstone already talked of buying a free passage out of the country. In fact, by the middle of November, his irresolution and incapacity had so demoralised the troops that neither Europeans nor Sepoys[48] were any longer fit to meet the Afghans in the open field. Then the negotiations began. During these, McNaghten was murdered in a conference with Afghan chiefs. Snow began to cover the ground, provisions were scarce. At last, Jan. 1, a capitulation was concluded. All the money, £190,000, was to be handed over to the Afghans, and bills signed for £140,000 more. All the artillery and ammunition, except 6 six-pounders and 3 mountain guns, were to remain. All Afghanistan was to be evacuated. The chiefs, on the other hand, promised a safe conduct, provisions, and baggage cattle.


Dost Mohammed was now dismissed from captivity, and returned to his kingdom. Thus ended the attempt of the British to set up a prince of their own making in Afghanistan.

But it wasn’t the end of an obsession with Afghanistan, the land-based nexus between east and west.

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