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BLITZER’S BLOG: Despite drawdown, Afghanistan still costly
June 22nd, 2011
02:05 PM ET

BLITZER’S BLOG: Despite drawdown, Afghanistan still costly

(CNN) - The president tonight will announce an initial troop withdrawal from Afghanistan but will also make his case for keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops there through the end of 2014.

Just to recap: There were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when Obama took office on January 20, 2009. He quickly doubled down on the Bush counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency strategy and increased that number to the current 100,000.

What the president probably won’t say tonight is how much keeping all those troops in Afghanistan for another three and a half years will cost American taxpayers. Military budget experts have told me the figure will be at least another $400 billion dollars.

Right now, with 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, the U.S. is spending about $120 billion a year – some $10 billion a month. If the U.S. pulls out 10,000 troops by the end of this year, there won’t be much initial savings. Remember: it’s not cheap packing up troops and moving heavy equipment.

There will still be between 80,000 to 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for most of next year. U.S. officials hope to get the number down to 70,000 by the start of 2013. Maintaining 70,000 troops there will still cost roughly $100 billion a year, experts tell me.

That’s in part because the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now are backed up by some 20,000 U.S. citizens who are private U.S. government contractors. Most work for the Department of Defense and many have salaries considerably higher than military personnel. There are another 1,150 State Department personnel serving in Afghanistan.

In addition, the U.S. employs another 70,000 private contractors who are either Afghan citizens or third-country citizens. Maintaining those contractors and diplomats in Afghanistan – in addition to the troops - helps explain why the overall Afghan mission is so expensive.

RELATED: Troop drawdown won't stop spending machine

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Filed under: Afghanistan • President Obama • Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    It is very boring to me to listen to this when even 100Bn over 10 years is a trillion$$ off the national debt projections, and that's just Afghanisatn, how about Iraq and all those overseas bases.
    I have a suggested question Wolf for you and all your pundits,based on the following brief debate pointers.
    It is fairly clear that at the UNSC level and many other International organisations that they did not perceive a threat to thier national security initially in Iraq and then in Afghanistan from either the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Also, at that stage 9/11 was an effect. The cause was the US being the leader and major protaganist in taking/declaring war in against Islamic states and against terror = al Qaeda.
    So take the cause away, i.e get out 100% of Iraq Afghanistan now, not later.
    The question is:-
    Why is our (most powerful nation in the world economically and militarily, for now anyway) how and why is national security threatened by Iraq and Afghanistan (Taliban regaining power even), if we unilaterally take the cause ( fundamentally for Muslims our enemy in effect) away, i.e fighting Islam or islamic states.
    PS Dont just say its naive, simplistic, because that was the problem with the justifications. I fail to see how anyone can justify these wars with the major justification lying in the background of US national security or for economic reason even. The Chinese and Russians never thought so, and the latter despite Muslims committing terrorist acts in Russia which were caused by Muslims being attacked and persecuted and not connected to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
    If there are 30,000 or 100,000 Al Qaeda and Taliban, let spying and Homeland security defend us not hundreds of thousands of troops for generation past or future.
    We have lost 5000 dead brave soldiers. Thousand and thousands more maimed for life (for the 3000 9/11 victims may they rest in peace, It was a horrendous indecent even unforgiveable act.) And who knows how many by continuing a war that cannot be won in the WWI and WWII sense, or by any measure in reality, or tell us the measure(s)/metrics.
    Look forward to hearing the question debated on the situation room, or elsewhere

    June 26, 2011 at 3:27 am |
  2. Hometown Postville

    As an "ordinary American", I would love to see our involvement in ALL war as well as "peace-keeping efforts" in other countries ended asap and defense funds directed back to the homefront where they belong. No big announcements, no politics, no delays, just get the planes lined up and bring them home to their families. No more blown off limbs, paraplegia, PTSD, or strange debilitating illnesses denied for decades by the government. Let's take care of our own and send troops overseas only as needed per United Nations counsel or natural catastrophe.Rebuilding our ailing infrastructure would put millions back to work for years. But since our political infrastructure is just as broken and no longer reflective of the constitution or desires of the people, this would never happen. As long as large corporations and speculators rule, benefiting from manipulation of natural resources and supplies, there will always be an excuse to invade other countries and remain"at war." Not the Republicans, the Democrats, the Tea Party or any other political group is going to change this. You are only fooling yourself if you think otherwise. Anyone paying taxes, including those of us working 2-3 jobs, living paycheck to paycheck are funding this fiasco. Yeah, I can already hear the military-minded come-backs about the need for "protection from impending terrorism." But if you do your homework, you will realize that our politically censored media is responsible for much of that fear propaganda. With all our troops at home, how could we, supposedly the most powerful and technologically advanced nation in the world fear or be unable to successfully deflect such attacks? Anyone else out there feel the same? What kind of alternative exists? God be with us as we struggle for answers!

    June 23, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  3. jim

    Funny most of you are talking about the money and budget . Remember what its about . Yes Bush screwed up with Iraq when he changed his agenda with Afganistan . Now we have another politician Obama , his openening state was that there is pressure from his fellow democrats . Come on , its election time again , pathetic .

    June 23, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Howard


      "Look, it's an all volunteer force," Obama complained. "Nobody made these guys go to war. They had to have known and accepted the risks. Now they whine about bearing the costs of their choice? It doesn't compute.." "I thought these were people who were proud to sacrifice for their country, "Obama continued "I wasn't asking for blood, just money. With the country facing the worst financial crisis in its history, I'd have thought that the patriotic thing to do would be to try to help reduce the nation's deficit.. I guess I underestimated the selfishness of some of my fellow Americans."

      June 23, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  4. Eric Watson

    I served in the United States Army From 95 to 99 proudly but it is time to bring our troops home......The wars are costly financially and emtionally to all....

    June 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  5. jaiskiju

    Cnn why rnt u couering that trial in new orleans the danzinger trial. its as huge as the casey anthony trial.CORRUPTION LIES MURDER

    June 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  6. ChipAway

    Glad you blogged on this Mr. Blitzer. What if we decide to draw down troops until there is one on one versus the taliban? What if we decide to increase troops to lets say 10 to 1 against the Taliban? To me the answer most of us seek is closer to the extremes than it is to the middle. When you engage military spending with political rhetoric, what we get is what we got over the last 500 years.

    If the military's top brass could decide which way to go, they will go with give us more and more money and we will succeed whatever the mission. But, let's say the military's brass is given a highly reduced amount, what do you think they will do? Fold-up the tent and retreat is not likely, and in fact is not what our military would do. They would lobby for more money and they WILL make do to the best of their ability.

    That is how we should proceed. We need to be free of compromised professional politicians that exist solely by their ability to raise money. Don't forget that these politicians think they should be involved in end of life decisions. Bottom line – the current system doesn't work because politics corrupts the military's capability to come up with the best answer given the circumstances.

    June 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  7. sissy

    I read that Afghanistan is rich in minerals needed for technology. Is that another reason the U.S. is still present? How much does is cost to send a new recruit through basic training? What if the recruits were sent to temporary training camps near U.S. disasters. Team the new recruits with some fantastic leadership to help U.S. citizens fight disasters and poverty. This training would be the new basic training. Instead of pumping iron, they'd be pumping tornado or hurricane debris. The recruits could get training using non-combat equipment. The new recruits would get life experience, opperations training and we the people might recover more
    quickly . Perhaps fewer people would die because they'd be rescued sooner. Perhaps disasters would be less expensive if recovery was faster.After this new basic training, troops could get their combat training in violent areas of the U.S. Medics could train in prisons, and ambulances ect.Just kidding. Sort of. My suggestion is that every soldier and support person help the people of the U.S. directly, before they go overseas.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  8. Henry Miller

    "You wanna cut spending. Do the math on the above numbers. We spend over $20k per week per soldier, times 100,000 soldiers. That's 2 billion per week, folks. Gee, we could restore W.I.C funding 4 times over with just one week of savings."

    Or we could reduce the debt by $2 billion per week and quit encouraging people to have kids they can't afford to feed. That's just a kind of child abuse.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Mike kerns

      The conservative clowns in Congress will want to use the savings for tax cuts for the wealthy

      June 23, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  9. Brian

    The reason for invading Afghanistan was just and correct. The reasons for staying now? Its simply about corporate greed. And we are destroying our military. Deployment after deployment takes a toll on en and equipment, ya know?

    June 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  10. Henry Miller

    There's no good reason to keep US troops in Afghanistan past the middle of July, let alone the middle of next year. Bin Laden is dead and Obama doesn't even have that flimsy excuse any more.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  11. Brian

    Every one said the same thing about Vietnam. We pulled out and what do you know? Vietnam is doing fine.

    10 years of this is enough. We got Bin Laden, we crippled AL Queda. Can we get hit by terrorism? Of course we can, but that will always be the case. Staying 50 more years in Afghanistan wont change that. Bring the troops home.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  12. Ehsan

    The Afghan war will become even costlier and end up becoming a "lost war" unless we grow some balls and fight the Taliban where they are hiding: Pakistani hideouts. We also have to attack and destroy their support network within Paki army and intelligence ISI

    If not, they will continue with their hit-and-run until we are defeated.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  13. Rich McKinney, Texas

    As soon as the number of troops starts to drop from a troop withdrawal more attacks will occur to keep those left remaining as long as possible. America is a bonanza for the Afghanistan economy. The countries most profitable business is Opium. The next most profitable business is the United States military. America is pouring billions of dollars each week into Afghanistan while our own unemployment rate is approaching 10 percent. Those billions we must borrow because we are broke. Hell, America would have to fart just to have a scent in it's back pocket. It is time to bring all of our people home. We can no longer afford to play Nation builder.

    June 22, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  14. POD

    10 Years and half a trillion dollars later.....where are we and at what cost in humanity to ourselves and the Afghans.....all for 'little bit of money'....I hope those responsible burn in hell for all eternity.....of course that presupposes there even is a hell.....if not, they got away with it....cause no one in this life is going to bring this scum to justice

    June 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  15. Teresa*


    June 22, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  16. Teresa*


    June 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  17. harold, Phoenix,AZ.

    We will leave Afghanistan without victory, what ever that is. We are of short attention and have no desire for protracted war.
    Think Vietnam! Bring these brave young men and women home. They have earned their stripes

    June 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  18. Rich McKinney, Texas

    Wolf, the illusion that America is accomplishing something in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan is just that, a governmental illusion. Yes, Osama after 10 years was killed and yes, a number of terrorists have been killed but the number of dead American soldiers now outnumbers those killed on 911. Are we safer? Hell no we are not any safer. Have we rounded up all those responsible for 911? No and a lot of those we did round up are now back on the battle field because we did not keep them locked up or try them in a military court as enemy combatants. While we play nation builder in the middle east building their economies our own crumbles around us. Trying to spread democracy to countries that never asked for it is a fools errand. We are throwing billions of dollars and thousands of lives into a wasteful pit that has absolutely no chance of success.

    June 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  19. harold, Phoenix,AZ.

    So we must make war to defend our freedom, why are we the only country that must constantly be engaged in wars?
    I am often in turmoil as to the importance when we only use one percent of our population to do the fighting and dying.
    Sell the act to someone else, I served along with countless thousands, it was not required of troops to do endless tours of duty in combat zones. Let us find a way to end the insanity, Any President owned by the corporations will do their bidding.

    June 22, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  20. Boonedoggle

    Our military commanders show no remorse for rewarding no-bid contracts to pay $400 per gallon for jet fuel and diesel oil in Afganistan. Someone needs to tell these "Genius Generals" that there is nothing patriotic in bankrupting our country merely to keep their 10 year old war ongoing.

    June 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • karmaapple

      On the news tonight, i learned that it costs $1 miilion per soldier per year. With 30,000 troops, that is $30 Billion.

      And we don't have money to pay granny's social security???

      This past decade of wars on terror has cost us our entire economy. A decade of war. It is neverending war. That we can't afford.

      June 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  21. Demos

    We no longer have any reason to be there. Our economy is in shambles and we're falling into poverty each day. The politicians and corporate greed has spent enough. Where is this going?

    June 22, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Jack

      Just ask Russia it's gona bankrupt this country

      June 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • karmaapple


      June 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
      • karmaapple


        My comment was Hal i burton. And only that 1 word. Nothing else.

        And it says "your comment is awaiting moderation" Hmmmmmmmm We see who controls things.

        June 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
      • karmaapple


        My comment was 1 word, Hally- Burton, (sp.). And only that 1 word. Nothing else.

        And it says "your comment is awaiting modration"
        Hmmmmmmmm We see who controls things.

        June 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
      • Chris


        June 22, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  22. edsr

    No kidding, Blitzer......................we didn't know that! You are a REAL brainy guy from way out in BUFFALO NY..........real neat and clean and sharp town.......just like you!.

    June 22, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  23. Pappadan

    Too many Americans think that the US can win in Afghanistan. Many of those Americans thought that we could win in Viet Nam. Remember Vietnamization? Win the will of the people. Draw down our troops while the South Vietnam troops take our the task. Now I am hearing Afghanization. Forget about it! Furthermore, what about Al-Qaeda in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and even in Europe?

    June 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Larry Downing

      You know Nixon lied to us. I was there to and believed the lies they fed us. On top of that I was in force intelligence. It was all about getting out and making it look as good as we could. Negrapotee who served Nixon and Bush was the foreign service person who lied to the Cambodians about our support. Lets win this one and get the hell out and never let cowboys become President.

      June 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • phillossifer

      I'm an ole man, tired of seeing our young middle class soldiers, being killed over a neboulous concept. Koreans were going to be trained to fight, they made olympic running teams in battle. Same with Viet Nam, Iraq and Afganistan. Their mottos were lets you and them fight, we'll cheat, lie and change sides at night. elitists don't serve, they go to college to get an education in wine, women and song. I'm tired of expensive suited, necktied politicians and media people extolling positions common man has no input into. And at expensive salaries. Four score years this has been going on. My conclusion s MI complex runs Congress as they give campaign contributions to legislators. Comman people don't count!!!!!! tired ole man

      June 23, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  24. dothemath

    How much are we spending per Afghan citizen? Something like6x their GDP. Is there not a less expensive method ofchange?

    June 22, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  25. paul tolson

    You can bet that myself and my friends and my family will NOT vote for President Obama again. The promisees about removing all the troops just burn me up......I cannot believe that any normal person thinks that our having all those troops in Afghanistan and Iraq make one little bit of difference......It's all about oil and money and it makes me ill. I hate liars and theives and that is what we have in Washington.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • emperorobama

      Makes no difference, I have ACORN out in the cemeteries right now gathering me enough votes that I will win regardless.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Chris R

      When did Obama say he would bring the troops home from Afghanistan during the election? Could you point to a time or place where he said he would do this? What he *said* was that he'd wind down the war in Iraq and refocus our military on the real war in Afghanistan. Which is exactly what he did. You may have thought, you may have imagined, you have have hoped that he said he'd end both wars but he *never* said he'd do that.

      June 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm |

    There are alot of short-sighted comments on Afghanistan. Seems people forgot why the U.S. is there in the first place. It's because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, PA. Relook at the videos and see the destruction. The Taliban harbored and supported Al Qaeda and Osama. Don't think they won't do it again. The Taliban have already been implicated in attempts to down aircraft here in the U.S. If we don't finish things the right way in Afghanistan, the terrorist will come back and considering Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is weak, the next 9/11 could be the final straw for the U.S. as a country. Think about that before you start whining about the war there.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Boonedoggle

      Sorry Michael. When I look at the videos of the 9-11 attacks I am always reminded that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and that both Saudi Royal Family money and support from known Saudi businessmen financed the terrorists. Please tell me what efforts our military has undertaken to bring the Saudis to justice?

      June 22, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  27. ELizar

    One of the quickist ways to bankrupt a country is multiple wars and it almost seems like this government is purposely running this country straight into the ground. Now the question is why?

    June 22, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

      You might be right about Libya and Iraq, but not Afghanistan. That is a war of necessity. Remember a little thing called 9/11? Review the 9/11 terrorists attacks and look at the destruction and horror it caused. That's not something I want to see happen here again.

      June 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
      • Brian

        With that line of thinking we should just invade Yemen, Somali, Iran, etc......Terrorism is still a threat to this country, no doubt. But without doubt is the fact that thiseconomic situation we find ourselves in is clear and present danger number one. And its not even close. Wrap these wars up. Fix the United States first.

        June 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  28. Joan

    If the American people have learned nothing else about this President, it should be noted that he is extremely intelligent, thoughtful, gutsy and he looks at the long range effects not just short-term political gain. He obviously knows that he has to start a draw-down but he can't do it so quickly that it endangers the troops still there. It has to be done thoughtfully and carefully. He didn't start either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars but has to clean them up and for that the Republicans have the nerve to criticize him. As far as Libya goes, many Republicans wanted the US in there on their own immediately and now they want to pull support from NATO. That is going to go over well in the international community. Right now I don't trust anyone else but President Obama to make these important decisions. He is definitely the adult in the room.

    June 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Ralf

      Thank you! Couldn't have said it better myself! Obama 2012!

      June 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  29. Jon

    What's the standing total in Iraq right now? Last I heard we were at 50,000, but there were plans for further drawdown there in 2011. We need to get down to CIA and DoD personnell + a few military trainers in Iraq that's it. For Afghanistan, I'd rather have the gradual drawdown with a better likelihood of successful transition of power, then a money saving full force pullout that yields poor results. We'll be wrapped up there by 2014, and the cost of operations will drop each year. I think the real focus should be on making sure that money saved is left out of the budget. We need to aim towards minimizing the annual debt increase each year, with the ultimate goal of getting back to balanced then into the black.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  30. Follow The Money

    I would think our budget hawk Republican Congressmen would have been out front with hard data on the financial implications of this troop draw down. It must not be negligible if they are avoiding talking about it.

    June 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  31. DLR

    The whole operation should be scaled back, special forces operation. 90% of the units there, should come home before the end of the year.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  32. Rudy NYC

    You wanna cut spending. Do the math on the above numbers. We spend over $20k per week per soldier, times 100,000 soldiers. That's 2 billion per week, folks. Gee, we could restore W.I.C funding 4 times over with just one week of savings.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  33. Lisa

    We keep hearing about troop withdrawl from Afganistan - a place we legimately needed to be in order to locate and apprehen OBL. Why are we not hearing about troop withdrawl from Iraq – a place we had and continue to have no reason to be in. I heard a GOP representative say something along the lines of "rebuild America or rebuild Afganistan" and that it was time to put America first. So why are we still rebuilding Iraq? Why haven't those troops and that money come home?

    June 22, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  34. Trygve Throntveit

    Well, freedom isn't free. I believr this is a good use of our taxpayer money, if it keeps us safe.

    June 22, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Rudy NYC

      "If it keeps us safe." That's the whole trick isn't it? I think we have reached the point of diminishing returns once we settled with Bin Laden.

      June 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • brown

      You really believe we are fighting for 'feedom'? Open your eyes man!

      June 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

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