Afghanistan

Only the Appearance of Success in Afghanistan

In anticipation of how the Obama administration will define success and metrics of progress in Afghanistan, Tom Englehardt of the Nation provided an invaluable collection of statistics (with proper links) in his article “Afghanistan by the Numbers.”

The damning list of numbers in the latter half of the article, (culled from reports on the ground in Afghanistan, polls taken of public opinion in America and abroad, and on-the-record statements from military brass and respected figures) should make anyone question the efficacy of our efforts to save the world’s second weakest state.  Here are some of the more salient numbers from the fields of Afghanistan (italics mine):

Total funds for US combat operations in Afghanistan, 2002-2009: $228.2 billion.

War-fighting funds requested by the Obama administration for 2010: $68 billion (a figure which will, for the first time since 2003, exceed funds requested for Iraq).

Funds recently requested by US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry for non-military spending in Afghanistan, 2010: $2.5 billion.

Number of gallons of fuel per day used by the US Marines in Afghanistan: 800,000.

Cost of a single gallon of gas delivered to the Afghan war zone on long, cumbersome and dangerously embattled supply lines: Up to $100.

Number of gallons of fuel used to keep Marine tents cool in the Afghan summer and warm in winter: 448,000 gallons.

US troop levels in Afghanistan, 2002: 5,200.

Expected US troop levels in Afghanistan, December 2009: 68,00o

Why is our government wasting invaluable resources and capital in such a manner?  What is gained by “victory” in Afghanistan, by doubling down and making this a war of necessity?  We cannot forget that our military is exhausted because insist on two simultaneous COIN strategies with decades-long time horizons. Though Congress has largely backed up Obama’s approach in Afghanistan, skepticism is growing slowly. Last week, top Democrats Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, signaled that they have doubts about a potential request for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

“I don’t think there is a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in Congress,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters, emphasizing that she was eager to see a report due from the White House in two weeks on benchmarks to measure the success of the administration’s six-month-old strategy.

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