Cost of America’s Longest War

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Waseem Shehzad

Muharram 23, 1443 2021-09-01

Main Stories

by Waseem Shehzad (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 7, Muharram, 1443)

The US lost the war in Afghanistan. It was a stunning defeat at many levels, not least that a self-proclaimed superpower had its nose rubbed in the dust by a rag-tag band of Afghan fighters armed with Kalashnikovs and Imaan (faith). Only the Washington warlords are in denial. They made tons of money from America’s longest war. That also explains why they chastised US President Joe Biden for pulling American troops out of the country after 20 years of blood-letting. If the war had continued, it would not have led to a different outcome. It is, however, not a different outcome the warlords are after. For them, war is a money-making racket and they wanted it to continue even if the result would be more deaths and destruction—of others as well as some Americans.

America’s warlords have never cared for other peoples’ lives. In his address on August 16, not once did Biden mention the hundreds of thousands of Afghans murdered by America’s war machine. He only talked about US casualties and why he was not willing to send more “American sons and daughters” to die in distant lands or return home maimed and disfigured.

“American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves… We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future,” Biden said. Missing from this narrative was the fact that it was the US that imposed the war on Afghanistan. The Afghans did not start it.

Let us briefly compare US/NATO casualties with those of the Afghans. These include Taliban fighters, Afghan army soldiers and civilians killed in US/NATO’s relentless bombardment from the air and ground. Wedding parties, funerals, school functions as well as hospitals were all bombed by the trigger-happy Americans. No compensation or apology were ever offered. They were not deemed necessary since the Americans—and indeed Western oligarchs in general—consider other people as subhuman.

Since October 2001, 2,443 American troops and 1,144 allied troops (mainly NATO) have been killed in Afghanistan. Additionally, some 3,900 contractors—mercenaries to whom war-making was contracted out—were also killed. The number of US troops injured has been put at 20,666, according to SIGAR’s latest report released on August 17, 2021.

The Afghan death toll has been much higher. At least 66,000 Afghan troops and more than 48,000 Afghan civilians were killed (collateral damage in the infamous words of the now dead Donald Rumsfeld). At least 75,000 Afghans were also injured since 2001—“both likely significant underestimations,” according to the same SIGAR (Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction) report.

Brown University Costs of War Project, that has tracked casualty figures in the US-NATO war on Afghanistan, estimates that in all, between 171,000 and 176,000 people were killed in the war. It put the Taliban death toll at nearly 51,000. Even these figures do not accurately reflect the reality of Afghan suffering.

There are other figures that are seldom, if ever mentioned or acknowledged by the US: casualties suffered by Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf’s disastrous decision to surrender to US demands resulted in more than 70,000 Pakistani deaths (military and civilian) and financial losses of more than $150 billion. Successive Pakistani governments—Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif—allowed American drones to continue to kill Pakistani civilians including children in dereliction of their responsibility to protect Pakistani lives. They were also murdered by the Tehrik-e Taliban terrorists (TTP) that were and are still sheltered in Afghanistan.

Let us turn to the financial cost of the US war on Afghanistan. The Pentagon says its cost was $1 trillion. Technically, this is correct because the Pentagon only takes into account the cost of equipment and salaries of the nearly 800,000 troops rotated through Afghanistan over 20 years. What is missing from this figure is “reconstruction costs”, costs of hiring private contractors and “training” of Afghan soldiers and police as well as interest on borrowed money. Brown University’s Costs of War Project has provided a much more realistic figure of $2.26 trillion.

It gives the following breakdown based on estimated Congressional appropriations and spending for FY2001 – FY2021:

Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations (War) $933 billion
Pentagon’s War-related base budget increases $443 billion
Veterans’ Care $269 billion
State Department War budget $59 billion
Interest to date $530 billion
Total cost to date

$2.26 trillion

Staggering as the above figure is, it “does not include funds that the United States government is obligated to spend on lifetime care for American veterans of this war, nor does it include future interest payments on money borrowed to fund the war,” says Brown’s study.

According to CIGAR’s report, the US allocated $145 billion for Afghan reconstruction. However, it readily admits that “many of the institutions and infrastructure projects the United States built were not sustainable.” There were several reasons for this. Infrastructure plans were conceived not with the purpose of serving the Afghan people but to show “progress” on paper and to line the pockets of contractors and their corporate bosses back home. Further, the Afghans simply did not have the capacity or the training to sustain them.

SIGAR reports since 2008 admit that reconstruction efforts spawned a culture of corruption. American as well as Afghan warlords benefited enormously. Not surprisingly, just a few miles outside urban centres, people suffered elevated rate of diseases due to malnutrition, lack of clean water, and vastly reduced access to health care. Life expectancy in Afghanistan is currently 52 years. Every factor correlated to a premature death, such as poverty, malnutrition, poor or no sanitation, and lack of basic health care have been closely associated with the 20-year war.

If the $2.26 trillion spent by the US in its 20-year war on Afghanistan were disbursed among the Afghan population of 38 million, each man, woman and child would have received nearly $60,000. Far from fighting the Americans, they would have thanked them profusely. There would be no American, NATO, Afghan or Pakistani casualties and no permanently disabled US war veterans.

That this did not happen was because American warlords, multinational corporations, banks and weapons manufacturers had to be paid without the approval and knowledge of the American people. America is run by a mafia that does not care for human life.

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