The White House is putting out the word that the sheer cost of the war in Afghanistan will be a big reason why President Obama orders a drawdown of US forces in July. The size, and pace, of that withdrawal is up for grabs, of course, and it’s entirely possible that Obama will once again cave in to pressure from the military and withraw only a token number of troops.
But in the Washington Post today, the word is that at nearly $120 billion a year—it’s just too much. Reports Rajiv Chandrasekaran:
“Of all the statistics that President Obama’s national security team will consider when it debates the size of forthcoming troop reductions in Afghanistan, the most influential number probably will not be how many insurgents have been killed or the amount of territory wrested from the Taliban, according to aides to those who will participate. It will be the cost of the war.”
He quotes an administration official:
“Money is the new 800-pound gorilla. It shifts the debate from ‘Is the strategy working?’ to ‘Can we afford this?’ And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible.”
Chandrasekaran quotes military officials opposed to the idea of a significant reduction in the American role in Afghanistan.
But he reports: “The heightened fiscal pressures, coupled with bin Laden’s killing four weeks ago, could shift the balance of power in the Situation Room toward Vice President Biden and other civilians who had been skeptical of the surge and favor a faster troop drawdown than top commanders would prefer.”