Next in Budget Crosshairs: Afghanistan War

'Money is the new 800-lb gorilla,' says one official
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2011 11:03 AM CDT
Next in Budget Crosshairs: Afghanistan War
In this picture taken Sunday, May 15, 2011, United States Marines carry colleague LCPL Jerome Hanley of Massachusetts, who was wounded in an insurgent attack to a waiting medevac helicopter from the US Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment at a "hot" landing zone...   (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

(Newser) – With budget battles in Washington growing ever fiercer and the US military poised to spend $113 billion on operations in Afghanistan this year, cost is going to be the largest factor in troop reductions there, reports the Washington Post. Afghanistan's inaccessibility and lack of resources means nearly everything the military uses must be brought in and built from scratch—roughly $1 million per soldier per year. “Where we’re at right now is simply not sustainable,” said one senior administration official.

“Money is the new 800-pound gorilla,” said another official. “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.” About $1.3 billion last year went to military and civilian reconstruction efforts in only one 80,000-person district of Helmand province—about the same amount of aid that goes to all of Egypt. “Our mission is to disrupt and dismantle al-Qaeda, and what the bin Laden killing shows us is that you can do that with a small number of highly skilled guys,” said the second official. “You don’t need Army and Marine battalions in dozens of districts.” (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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