The unsurprising tragedies of the Afghanistan war

As we ponder the tragedies of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is important to also remember the costs of our continuing. An excerpt from the Boston Globe is pasted in below.

The bottom line is that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will have cost the US at least $4 trillion dollars (excluding interest costs) which is 4 million million dollars. Given that the US has only 132 million households, this spending averages to over $30,000 per household, all paid for by debt we will eventually have to pay off (unlike previous wars, taxes were not increased).

$4 trillion could have instead been invested in free public university tuition, free health care for all children, reducing climate change, or the $4 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden is asking for.

I commend President Biden for actually doing what presidents Bush, Obama and Trump all said they wanted to do but did not.

Joy and I have been listening to the audiobook “The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son and the Legacy of Vietnam” which covers the fall of Saigon in Vietnam and subsequent events. There should be no surprise that the events in Kabul are the consequence of war. Even the speedy fall of the government.

The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son – Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com › Father-All-Things-Vietnam-…

 

Below is from The Boston Globe on Tuesday 8/16/2021.

Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER The Associated Press, Updated August 16, 2021, 5:00 p.m.

 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/08/16/nation/costs-afghanistan-war-lives-dollars/

_________________________

The longest war:

Percentage of US population born since the 2001 attacks plotted by Al Qaeda leaders who were sheltering in Afghanistan: Roughly one out of every four.

The human cost:

American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448.

US contractors: 3,846.

Afghan national military and police: 66,000.

Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states: 1,144.

Afghan civilians: 47,245.

Taliban and other opposition fighters: 51,191.

Aid workers: 444.

Journalists: 72.

Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of US occupation:

Percentage drop in infant mortality rate since US, Afghan, and other allied forces overthrew the Taliban government, which had sought to restrict women and girls to the home: About 50. (RE note: Statistica still lists the IMR at 5% (“about 46.5 per 1000”) of all live births in 2019. This is still an abysmal rate: 1 in 20 infants are dying.)

Percentage of Afghan teenage girls able to read today: 37%. (RE note: World Bank data show it as roughly doubling since 2011. Still appalling.)

Oversight by congress:

Date Congress authorized US forces to go after culprits in Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: Sept. 18, 2001.

Number of times US lawmakers have voted to declare war in Afghanistan: 0.

Number of times lawmakers on Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee addressed costs of Vietnam War, during that conflict: 42

Number of times lawmakers in same subcommittee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, through mid-summer 2021: 5.

Number of times lawmakers on Senate Finance Committee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars since Sept. 11, 2001, through mid-summer 2021: 1.

Paying for a war on credit, not in cash:

Amount that President Truman temporarily raised top tax rates to pay for Korean War: 92 percent.

Amount that President Johnson temporarily raised top tax rates to pay for Vietnam War: 77 percent.

Amount that President George W. Bush cut tax rates for the wealthiest, rather than raise them, at outset of Afghanistan and Iraq wars: At least 8 percent.

Estimated amount of direct Afghanistan and Iraq war costs that the United States has debt-financed as of 2020: $2 trillion.

Estimated interest costs by 2050: Up to $6.5 trillion.

The wars end. The costs don’t:

Amount Bilmes estimates the United States has committed to pay in health care, disability, burial and other costs for roughly 4 million Afghanistan and Iraq veterans: more than $2 trillion.

Period those costs will peak: after 2048.

Source of the above: Much of the data is from Linda Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School and from the Brown University Costs of War project. Because the United States between 2003 and 2011 fought the Afghanistan and Iraq wars simultaneously, and many American troops served tours in both wars, some figures as noted cover both post-9/11 US wars.

 

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