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BLITZER'S BLOG: Is it wise to keep spending billions in Afghanistan?
February 27th, 2012
03:16 PM ET

BLITZER'S BLOG: Is it wise to keep spending billions in Afghanistan?

By Wolf Blitzer, CNN

It’s hard to believe, but American taxpayers are still shelling out $2 billion a week in Afghanistan. That adds up to more than $100 billion a year.

Maintaining a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan of nearly 100,000 U.S. troops is certainly not cheap.

U.S. taxpayers are spending billions trying to build up the Afghan military and police force.

More billions are spent on economic development, including the construction of roads, schools, power plants and hospitals.

All this is happening more than 10 years after 9/11 and after the death of Osama bin Laden. Nation building in Afghanistan remains a major U.S. objective.

But so many experts on Afghanistan are now concluding that this money is not being well spent.

The angry and deadly Afghan reaction to the mistaken burning of Muslim holy books is underlining the notion that the Afghan people don’t really want the U.S. and NATO troops in their country. They want these forces out.

These troops are supposed to remain in Afghanistan at least until the end of 2014. That’s another nearly three years.

Given the trends unfolding in Afghanistan right now and the enormous political pressure on U.S. leaders to reduce spending overseas and focus on domestic needs, I suspect that the pullout of U.S. and NATO troops will accelerate.

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RELATED STORY: Afghan president condemns fatal bombing at military airfield

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Troops • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (189 Responses)
  1. Will Atkinson

    All our millitary friends around here are very upset over recent happening with military in Afganistan, We try to speak to these issues, especially in light that everything we do today ends up on YouTube and all over the internet; reminds me of the movie "In First Blood" Rambo on the loose. We take young 18 and 19 year olds and train them to be killers and then subject them to 12 to 15 years of killing; When Don, I, Joe, Mike, Erik and many others went in military, it was for 4 years or so, these guys today go from teens to fully grown adults taught to kill and kill, most come home after second tour of 18 or more months, get married, have kids and then go back to killing fields for more and more tours. This guy in news today went in service when he was 18 and now he's 38 – twenty years of killling, he was part of 1st bush war in 91 and then 2nd bush wars in 2002 – 2012. He's been on killing fields for 20 years. I would even wonder if he like ex soldier in Mount Rainieer last year, wouldnt keep on being professional killlers in civilian life. We just had marine from camp pendleton killed by local police as he went on rampage in his front yard with his two little boys next to him. After 10 or 20 years carring machine gun, 30 and 40 year old soldiers can't come back into society and return to normal life.
    Scary times American for neighborhoods.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  2. AwakenTheSleeping

    This is (Obama's words) the war of necessity.
    We used the GW Bush strategy to get out of Iran, even though Obama said it wouldn't work.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  3. Maggie J

    I agree with all the previous comments – we need to leave Afghanistan – Our boys are paying $18.00 us dollars for Pizza, and we have given their president Hamid Karzai billions to help – Is there something wrong with this picture?? Obviously the American people are not smart enough to get it – right? Get out – they are our children dying. What about their heroin – isn't that enough money there to cover the building up of their own country. We are surrounded by crooks.
    However I would like to ask you Mr. Blitzer if you have the courage to ask Mitt Romney if he has signed Grover Norquist PLEDGE. It seems to me that Karl Rove was the think tank behind Bush – now Grover Norquist is holding all republicans HOSTAGE to the PLEDGE – Why don't you news guys profile our senators. How long they have been in office – what their earnings were when they went to Congress and what their wealth is now?? What about cutting congresses retirement benefits,another black hole created by these ROMANS who have forgotten the people. You are a smart guy Mr. Blitzer I have faith in your ability to bring up these issues. Thank you

    February 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  4. Jimmy9999

    This is utterly disgusting! We should put this money to good use like cancer research and other billion things! People are dying everyday from cancer not withstanding that people and children are also dying in Afghanistan for God's sake. Cancer is probably the worst disease in the century killing millions yearly from a child to our grand parents and from the littlest island in the south pacific with a handful of inhabitants to our biggest cities. People and especially governments do not seem to grasp the importance of cancer until it happens to them or to a love one ...

    February 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  5. Raphael Frommer

    We obviously are not dying (literally or figuratively) to bring democracy to a country so isolated and set in its ways (for centuries). After all, the majority of the Afghan population doesn't recognize pictures of the Twin Towers burning for what they are. We are there for the same reason as we entered Iraq. This part of the world has strategic value as a crossroads (lately for oil). Check my thinking with Greenspan; he'll emphatically agree. Also, Afghanistan has a fair amount of money in the ground in terms of minerals. So, the duration of our stay will be determined by an influential minority that continuously asks itself this question, which is the ONLY question that motivates US action on such a grand and expensive scale: Are our fortunes threatened? Are we still making money building the war material that's getting deployed/destroyed/replaced? As soon as the war becomes unprofitable, we'll pull out, declaring the only kind of victory that makes for good political legacies: WE MADE THE WORLD SAFER FOR DEMOCRACY. Remember, the slogan does NOT have to reflect the real truth. It merely must (a) appeal to the ignorant voting masses, (b) soothe those mourning the relatives' lives lost and (c) condition future teenagers into believing that if they fight for someone else's freedom in the Army they can be all that they can hope to be, given we're too cheap to educate them into real paying jobs.

    February 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  6. C Oliver

    When President Bush attack Afghanistan and form a poppet government, and pour in Billion of dollars. the Afghanistan president knew they had us by the tail, for over 10 years, and also did the same thing with Iraq, What the hell only the American people taken it in the short.. My question to you Wolf, what have we gain from it ?
    WE NEED TO GET OUT NOW!

    February 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  7. Phil, georgia

    What the Hell is wrong with these people–Afgans. Mistankenly burning the Koran should never lead to killings and even riots like this.....overall we are doing things that can make them a better people but we cannot tolerate our own being killed without retaliation.

    February 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  8. Doug Ericson

    One look at a topographical map and you can see why Afghanistan is unconquerable from the outside. Its about 90% rough mountainous terrain. Any General or President attempting to fight a war there should have their head examined. We should leave now.

    February 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  9. Little Tin God

    Haven't seen too much return on our money myself. The Afghans hate us just as much as the Iraqis do. Pakistan doesn't care for us either. So why do we keep pumping billions of dollars into these countries? Sure, Pakistan has nukes, but if they (or the terrorists they harbor) are going to use one on us, they're going to do it whether we give them billions or not.

    February 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  10. HoneyBe

    Ron Paul is the only one who is advocating getting out of Afghanistan immediately, and staying the heck out of any future wars unless the war is actually declared.

    February 28, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  11. Jim Thomas

    GET OUT PERIOD.What part of that don't our government understand.GET OUT NOW.Jim Thomas Phx.Az.

    February 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
  12. Gary Niditch

    Ii agree with almost ever blogger here.
    It is time to get out of Afghanistan–it's actually long past time.
    It makes me want to cry when I think of all the money wasted that could have been used in the US and all the useless deaths.

    No matter when we leave the country will slowly but surely return to its prior state.
    It's history and its people are such that change is impossible.
    100 years ago or so the British found this and more recently the Russians.

    Who in Bush's administration thought we would do better. What so called expert or experts got us involved.

    Great job George B. Two useless wars and trillions wasted

    You don't hear anything about this from the Repub. candidates do you

    February 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  13. Kifayat

    we in afghanistan are tired of the chrisitian invaders trying to tell us how to live. were tired of their smug attitude that they thingk they are smatter then us.

    then they destory our sacred books.

    yankkee gett out of land. or face the wrath of our people.

    February 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Harry in IN

      Why can't we all live just as human beings?

      February 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  14. Blue Dog

    My son is on the front line in Afghanistan and all of this worries us back home. A full investigation is needed to find out who burned the Koran. I think it was a set up to entice a riot. Shooting of officers is a MAJOR breech of any agreements we have with this country. So all of the Afghan men who are assisting our troops are now their worst enemy. However does any soldier deal with that??????? We need to be very careful in handling this situation. It has extremely serious consequences.

    February 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  15. Fr33th1nk3r

    We should give Afghani's what they want.....pull out and let the Muslims continue to kill Muslims. It is what they have done all throughout history, and all they look like they will be doing going into the future. We always have to do for other nations what they should be doing for themselves, and then we get blamed for it.
    Pull out, and then in 5 years when the Taliban is knocking on their door looking to enforce the latest round of Shariah edicts on the populace again, they can go crying to China or Russia....

    February 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  16. base7

    As a service member I can say I concur that our money is better spent here in the US. I recently was deployed to the Horn of Africa and every project we worked on was a complete waste of US tax payers $$. The African are no less corrupt than the Afghans; once a building, water well or solar power system was installed, it would be completely stripped of copper wire or anything of value that they could sell in the markets and then have the balls to ask us to repair/replace the parts!

    February 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  17. splasher6

    Wolf: could I go down quicker on a bigger liberal????

    February 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  18. Ron Hall

    I sure agree with everyone else. I will vote for Ron Paul just because of this issue. President Obama should quit trying to pacify hawks. Let's get out now!

    February 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  19. Coyote

    Every person who wants us to pull out before the country is stabilized is a person who wants another 9/11. A person who has forgotten the past and how the Taliban came to power, how their old leaders died and the feeling they had of abandonment when we bailed on them in the Reagan administration. Leaving now means we will have to go back again after another attack. Staying and showing these people that we can endure is what we need. Not fleeing a few thousand protestors and cowards who blow up unarmed civilians.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  20. martialeagle

    America armed and trained the men who would become the Taliban, al Qaeda and war lords to fight the Soviet Union. Then America abandoned the country to the Taliban until 9/11/01. But for 9/11/01 America would not care what was happening in Afghanistan,And the Afghan women/girls and minority groups would be treated the very same way they were treated in America for most of this nations history as property or second class citizens.

    The Taliban did not attack America on 9/11/01. It is their country. Perhaps America would have been wise to give then butter/honey and diplomacy instead of guns and bullets. And instead of an invasion and occupation special ops, drones and intelligence would have worked better. These people do not like invaders.

    if the draft dodger military service evading robber baron,plutocrat corporate welfare queens went to war that would stop this type of folly too. Send Gingrich, Santorum,Romney,Cheney, Limbaugh, Cain, Hannity, Beck,McConnell, Giuilani,Rove, DeMint, Kyl, Cornyn,Chambliss, etc

    February 27, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  21. the 1 Percent

    NO!! If you leave I will not be able to make money!!! Stay in Afghanistan so you can attack Iran and I can continue to make billions of dollars!! Hahahahaha!!! Seriously where do people think that 2 billion a week is going to? Supplies? Salarys? Nope going right back into the hands of greedy corporations who have no problem spilling american blood for Cash!!

    February 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  22. Trent

    I hope so. We've spend enough money and blood on people who consider murder to be a cultural value.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  23. georgex

    President Obama, speed up your plan to withdraw from Afghanistan. Only their own people can understand and control the country. Just give some special operations when needed to destroy specific targets. Our troops there are fuel for radical recruiting. P.S. We can not afford the costs anymore.Many of these people are dwelling in the Islamic Dark Ages (ie, European Dark Ages) and eventually with exposure to outsiders they will moderate the extreme parts of their religion, hopefully. How about dropping a bunch of televisions, radios, internet media devices down there so they can listen to the outside world and learn modern ideas. The radicals believe that life on earth is only a test to see if they can spend eternity in heaven. So if someone tells them to blow up a bunch in innocent people and they will immediately go to heaven and they believe that they do. Of course, this is just the most radical.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  24. The Haitian Chess Master

    We need to start pulling out of the places where we are not welcome, and start going places where we are welcome i.e Haiti

    February 27, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  25. ObjectiveOpinion

    There is no mission to fulfill over there. We are not going to change the ways of people that have been doing the same thing for a lot longer than we have. And these are not a rational people. A couple of books get burned and they spend a week demonstrating and killing innocent people. Bring our boys home and quit wasting money on these people.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  26. Dr John

    First & Foremost, I agree wholeheartedly. We are spending far too much money nationbuilding (that we are borrowing) now. Our mission needs to change to counter-terrorism and surveillance immediately. Bring the vast majority of our troops home now. Second, I don't know if the book burning was a mistake or in response to them communicating by writing extremist messages to each other in their holy book (that in itself is defacing their holy book). So, their fault for defacing their own holy book that we were providing in good nature. Additionally, it should be made absolutely clear that buring a book NEVER justifies killing people. That is what barbaric tribes do. We need to leave these close-minded religious zealots to rule and fight amongst themselves. I truly feel sorry for the peaceful open minded people in the region but they need to force the necessary change, not us.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Dr John

      Wolf, you are a class act. One of the few reporters on CNN without bias. Respectfully, more than a few reporters have let their left leaning perspectives out...perhaps in responce to fox...but a great journalist reports facts, is open minded, seeks truth and makes people think.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  27. Patrick a.

    And the majority of that money goes toooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

    we all know to whom,well at least the ones who still use their brains to think for themselves

    February 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  28. Conrad Miller

    Get our people–and the money we spend on that country–out of there, and let them die on the vine. If this is how they treat allies, then they can certainly handle the Taliban by themselves. They are not worth one more American life or a single American dollar.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • scoobypoo

      Yes, out of Afghanistan now!
      No more aid to the middle east until/unless they crawl out of the middle ages.
      Any country using sharia law is automatically a human rights abuser and should be shunned.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • nbgb

      Clear, Concise and to the point. Well spoken. Get out now and stop all aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan and maybe Egypt as well. We need the money here.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Chrisnot

      There is nothing to be gained by remaining. Afghanistan will fold in on itself just as Iraq is/has..., after years and years of sweat, blood and the sacrifice. Ghengis Kahn tried it.., the Brits tried it and the Russians tried it. We failed to take notice. The only reason to continue, and, another 10 years wouldn't help, is ego salvation. There are some pretty damn big egos who want to transform Afghanistan into something they don't want to be and are not going to be..., but the egos just won't let it go. This isn't a hit on Obama.., he inherited Afghanistan, the commitments and the egos.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  29. Jt_flyer

    How fast can our troops make it to the airport? That's when we should pull out. Let these relics, from some god forsaken century, have their Islam and all that it implies.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  30. Jerry

    Our situation in Afghanistan is sort of like the situation the British faced with the 13 colonies. The two countries are thousands of miles away. We are pouring money that doesn't exist into a "colony" that doesn't want us there. As one of the earlier comments said, "Have US politicians gone completely retarded?" Why are we building ANOTHER country when OUR country is crumbling around us? There isn't even any objective, no oil or anything like that. Can we do with Afghanistan what we did with Puerto Rico? I just don't understand the mentality of why our money is going to building the infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and economy of another country when those very same services are being neglected here.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Patrick a.

      First and foremost use your brains do you honestly believe we are over there to build that country.Since when Invaders go somewhere in order to make that place better.

      I am sure you are smarter then that.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Actually, we are there because of the lithium deposits that were found there sometime ago. Lithium is essential to building consumer electronics, like iPhones, computers, and Mifi cards that we normally take for granted.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Susan

      We need a like button for this!

      February 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  31. huxley

    Been there for more than 10 years, and we sure haven't made much progress convincing them to love the USA. If anything there are now more Afghanis with good reasons to hate the USA than there were 10 years ago.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  32. Jimmy Crack Corn

    We should protest by stopping payment of our taxes, siting the reason of prolonged "wars"/nationbuilding.

    February 27, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  33. R. Balfour

    Why does history always repeat itself. The British tried in the 1800's and finally gave up, the Russian in the 1980's and gave up and now after 10 years and billions of dollars, the US is finally waking up to the fact that it wasn't worth it.

    I see no redeeming factors in staying in Afganistan, the only thin they export is Opium and terrorists. We should have just dropped a nuke on two onit back in 2001.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  34. Jen52

    I sure hope so....like start now. Take our military and our money out of Afghanistan. That includes and aid money, take it all out the sooner the better.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  35. Emile_Mervin

    Colin Powell always said that whenever you are goin to war, you must have a clearly defined exit strategy. A decade after America entered Afghanistan, the exit strategy still proves elusive! If Obama gets re-elected, should he retain Powel as an advisor? True, Powell the politician played the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld game that got America in trouble in Iraq, but Powell the military man still has something to offer if he is allowed to bring his military knowledge to the table.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  36. Ohsnaps

    I think we should put it to a vote. Is that even possible anymore in our 'democracy'?

    February 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  37. Daniel M

    I agree This is Troubling but not as troubling as the U.S. sending aid to China !

    February 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  38. Beverly N. Jacobs

    It is past time to bring our troops and equipment home. we can use that money to reduce our debts and work on long neglected infrastructure and education.quite frankly I think we mind the business of other countries too much. It another country asks our opinion or assistance, that would be a different matter. BNJ

    February 27, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  39. DDM

    "$2 billion a week in Afghanistan. That adds up to more than $100 billion a year" – it's INSANE! Not the war profiteers, but the great majority of the American public is against this continuous loss, especially since taking out Osama. Politicians better be promoting GETTING OUT faster, else feel the consequences in November!

    February 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  40. leftwingbums

    I dont see how people complain about spending billions in afghanistan when low lifes here in the states are eating up all our money with welfare. Women under 25 with 4 kids cant get up and work but they sure do have nice cell phones and internet....maybe they should join the military.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  41. yourmom

    is it wise to keep spending billions on people that wont get off welfare? id rather put some terrorists into the ground than fund losers.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  42. jon

    Dear President Hamid Karzai:

    On behalf of the American people, I would like to offer you an apology. I'm sorry that you live in a country where a book is considered more valuable than a human life. I'm sorry that you attacked us in September 2001 without provocation. I'm sorry that the men of your society think women are their property. I'm sorry that your religion was founded by a suicidal pedophile. I'm sorry that my country spends $2 billion a week to protect your government. I'm sorry that Afghan’s cannot understand that writing messages in the Qur’an is the same as defiling it. I'm sorry that we brought Democracy to your country, at the cost of thousands of precious American lives, only so that you could enshrine Sharia in your constitution as the law of the land. I'm sorry that you live in the number one opium producing country in the world. I'm sorry that your government could not function without greed, corruption, bribery and graft. And lastly, I'm sorry that, after 9/11, we didn't just bomb you back to the stone age you enjoy living in instead of trying to rebuild you as a nation which could function in the modern world. For all of these things, you have our deepest regrets and apologies.

    Sincerely,
    The American people

    February 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  43. David Crandall

    If Obama can't get our troops out of there then it's time to get a new president who can. Vote Obama out in November.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  44. joesmith

    the muslim/arab community beat to a drum of which no one accepts in the western world..to attempt to democritize has proven fruitless, first the Russians, now us..the military complex/defense complex needs to just be big enough to say when..Ron Paul was right, quit spending billions of dollars, quit killing our young men, cut and get the he– out of there, let mr. Karzai become the President that he is..once out, no more tax dollars in the form of foreign aid either..maybe the rest of the arab world might get the message..

    February 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  45. people

    Lets get out of all muslim countrys, they hate us .

    We need a president with balls one who wont bow to muslims

    February 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  46. mikrik13

    If the American government cared at all about the US and it's real problems a far better effort would be to get out of Afghanistan and use those troops for "nation building" in Mexico. Protecting our border, ridding Mexico of all drug cartels, making Mexico livable for the Mexican people and still maintaining a cash flow to the military industrial complex is a more logical way to go. Let the Arab League deal with the problems of the Middle East. Stop draining America of treasure and manpower that has and will never pay off for the American people. We have oil. Develop it and develop alternate sources of energy. It is bad enough we fight the wars for Saudi Arabia and the Arab League. We also pay for all of it. The Middle East is a vicious circle of the ridiculous in which our government is stupid enough to participate.

    February 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Coyote

      Fighting in Mexico would be just as hard, enough not worse since the cartels would have an easier time striking soft targets here in the states.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  47. toadears

    Obama needs to end this war. The military won't like it because of the positioning to Iran, but we have been there sine the 1980's. Time to go and let the Russians fight with them some more. Tell all the loyal locals who assisted the troops to leave the country and then get us out ASAP.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  48. Bob

    Absolutely it should - we have NO partners to train or turn over to .Time to stop spending money for nothing with all the needs here at home ;-)

    February 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  49. mfriedrich

    Even the Soviet Army arrived at the correct conclusion about Afghanistan eventually. With all that waste in our rear view mirror, and a mountain of unpaid debt in our future path, what's our excuse?

    February 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Coyote

      Soviets left because we propped up the native fighters.

      February 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  50. Kevin

    Why was it wrong when Bush took us there but the right thing for Obama to keep us there????? Get out and stop playing politics with it. We should not be there period.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  51. angel611

    I think Afghanistan wants us to leave, so if it we are there to help, we need to leave.
    It's not rocket science.
    Did Iraq fall apart and go into total civil war when we pulled out?
    No.
    By the way Obama, I won't forget your lie that you would get us out of Afghanistan when I vote in November.

    February 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Dan5404

      Did you miss his withdrawal plan? Also, he didn't do anything except try to achieve a reasonable stability after we're gone. Remember who started the war...it wasn't him.

      February 28, 2012 at 1:09 am |
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