Fighting a war isn't cheap, and in Afghanistan's case, neither is ending one. The US is set to get everyone out by 2014, but getting everything out will cost billions, says Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. "Combat is still going on. Terrible terrain. Narrow roads. Long way to a seaport. Afghanistan is orders of magnitude more challenging … than was Iraq," the Pentagon's No. 2 tells USA Today.
Afghanistan is landlocked, and the nearest port is 1,000 miles away, across the Pakistani border—which was closed to the US until last week, and could take months to fully reopen. Flying is even more expensive. And there is much to move: The US has 400 bases to dismantle (every single item has to be inventoried and cleaned, notes USA Today), 100,000 shipping containers to return, and 45,000 military vehicles to move out (ditto the cleaning requirements here, over fears of the non-native species any dirt could contain). "The challenge of getting in and out of Afghanistan tells us a lot about why Osama bin Laden went there in the first place," one military analyst says. It's not an easy place "to sustain a war effort."