FACTBOX-A look at costs of Afghan war to U.S. taxpayers

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON, May 10 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama’s
request in February for more money to pay for the war in
Afghanistan is still snarled in Congress as lawmakers work on
other priorities and deal with scarce budget resources.

When Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets lawmakers this
week as part of his four-day trip to Washington, they will want
reassurances from him that he is committed to tackling
corruption and ensuring U.S. taxpayer funds are not wasted.

Obama has asked for $33 billion more to help fund 30,000
extra U.S. soldiers being sent to Afghanistan this year. He
wants $4.5 billion more for beefed-up foreign aid and civilian
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year; about $2 billion
of that amount is dedicated to Afghanistan.

Congress is expected to approve the new money but appears
to be in no hurry. Following are the costs to U.S. taxpayers so
far, as well as some of the future funding needed.

COSTS SO FAR

Congress has approved $345 billion so far for the war in
Afghanistan, where the United States invaded to fight al Qaeda
and topple the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. This
figure is from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office,
which says that about $22 billion has gone for
Afghan-war-related activities in other countries.

COMPARISON WITH IRAQ

About twice as much money — $708 billion — has gone to
the war in Iraq so far, CBO says.

But Afghanistan is becoming the more expensive
battleground, as the pace of U.S. military operations slows in
Iraq and quickens in Afghanistan.

The current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, is the first
year that more money has been allocated to Afghanistan ($72.3
billion) than Iraq ($64.5 billion), according to the National
Priorities Project, a nonpartisan budget research group that
examines congressional appropriations.

MONEY FOR AFGHANISTAN’S MILITARY AND POLICE FORCES

Included in the money spent on Afghanistan so far is more
than $25 billion for training and equipping the Afghan National
Security Forces — the army and police, according to the
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Obama
wants another $14.2 billion for this purpose for the rest of
this year and next; the idea is to leave behind security forces
that can take on the responsibility of fighting the Taliban as
U.S. forces start to leave.

FUTURE MILITARY COSTS

Future expenses are a question mark, partly because troop
levels are uncertain. Obama says he wants to start withdrawing
forces from Afghanistan in mid-2011, but that will depend, in
part, on conditions on the ground. No departure deadline has
been set.

Estimates of the cost per troop per year in Afghanistan
vary from $500,000 to $1 million depending on whether
expenditures on troop housing and equipment are included along
with pay, food and fuel. Medical costs for the injured and
veterans’ compensation balloon as time goes on.

FOREIGN AID AND CIVILIAN SURGE

Foreign aid, including food and development assistance, to
Afghanistan has totaled some $17 billion since 2002, according
to Department of State and Congressional Research Service
documents.

But future expenses in this area are also a question mark
that is expected to linger after the military one. “As
President Obama made clear, our civilian engagement in
Afghanistan and Pakistan will endure long after our combat
troops come home,” the State Department said in its
justification for its supplemental budget request this year.

That request includes $2 billion in 2010 to help fund a
“civilian stabilization strategy” to deliver more economic
assistance to Afghanistan, especially in its agricultural
sector. Part of the idea is to create jobs that will draw
insurgents off the battlefield in Afghanistan.

Stock Market Research

(Editing by Sue Pleming and Cynthia Osterman)

FACTBOX-A look at costs of Afghan war to U.S. taxpayers