The Complex Funding of an Afghanistan Troop Drawdown

May 9, 2012

By Melissa Bynes Brooks

A myriad of questions persist following President Obama’s recent pact with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. The pact signals the transition of responsibility and leadership to the Afghan people for their own security as the U.S. drawdown continues with 23,000 troops leaving Afghanistan this summer.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), whose main role has been to assist the Afghan government in the establishment of a secure and stable environment, will have more supportive responsibilities but will still be available for combat if needed.

There are uncertainties vis-à-vis conditions on the ground, capabilities of the Afghan security forces, and the extent of U.S. involvement beyond 2014 when the Afghans are projected to be completely responsible.

What we know for sure, is that the war ending agreement is closely aligned with the sentiment of the majority of Americans. Many are war weary due to the number of casualties, impeding progress, and perceived corruption of the Afghan government.

At least 1,842 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on May 4, found Seventy-seven percent of Americans said they wanted all U.S. combat troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2012. This does not include trainers and Special Forces. 73 percent said they did not want the United States to establish any permanent military bases in Afghanistan. The poll had a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Managing the complexity of cost related items and estimating the impact of future expenditures is a major concern. President Obama has acted to properly resource the Afghan war. Many of the problems faced prior to him taking office might have been avoided with proper management during the Bush Administration.

Since the 9/11 attacks, Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), covering primarily Afghanistan and other small Global War on Terror (GWOT) operations ranging from the Philippines to Djibouti, will receive $444 billion (35%) of the $1.283 trillion total.

Were it not for the diversion of the Iraq war, incurred costs for reliance on the Reserves and National Guard may have been diminished. 82,800 to 142,000 active duty troops stationed in Iraq between May 2003 and January 2005 would have been assigned to Afghanistan instead. Reservists cost more than active-duty personnel during wartime because of the additional cost of paying full-time rather than part-time salaries.

Furthermore, costs related to contracts with private military security firms would have been lower. Private security guards working for Blackwater in Iraq, in 2007, were earning up to $1,222 a day to over $445,000 a year. Compare that to an Army sergeant earning $140 to $190 a day in pay and benefits for a total of $51,100 to $69,350 a year.

But it is what it is.

It is a documented fact that Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funds grow faster than troop levels. O&M are used to transport troops and their equipment to Afghanistan, conduct military operations, provide in-country support at bases, and repair war-worn equipment.

Operation & Maintenance (O&M) funding nearly doubled between FY2004 and FY2008, from $42.0 billion to $79.1 billion, an increase of $37.1 billion.

However, troop levels are one of the key factors in driving costs in the Afghan war. The Administration cited $1 million per troop per year in Afghanistan to justify its $30 billion supplemental request for FY2010.

Troop downsizing is a big part of the Obama administration’s plan to save $259 billion over the next five years and $487 billion in defense cuts over 10 years.

The FY2013 Department of Defense (DOD) budget request includes a total of $613.9 billion indiscretionary budget authority: $525.4 billion for the so-called “base budget” (excluding operations in Afghanistan and Iraq), and $88.5 billion for war costs or “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO).

Overall, that request is $31.8 billion less than was appropriated for DOD in FY2012, with most of the reduction accounted for by the continuing drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Additional funding will be needed and the acquisition of support from other entities will not occur without incident.

A successful Afghanistan transition will require the collaboration and assistance from various donor countries. There is no doubt; each country will indicate their expected benchmarks for signs of improvement in order to solicit funds from their respective legislatures.

This will be an agenda item at the upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit with leaders from around the world which President Obama will host in Chicago from May 20-21.

Earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed the importance of this month’s Chicago Summit to the future of the Alliance and its mission in Afghanistan. He said the Chicago Summit will be a crucial one for the Alliance that consists of 28 independent member countries. The Summit will have three main goals: Afghanistan, capabilities and partnerships.

There is an aura of optimism in the midst of conjecture.

At the Department of Defense on May 1, during a background briefing on the Section 1230 Report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, a Sr. State Department Official said, “There- we’re slowly but surely making it to our 1 billion euro challenge. So we hope to make it.”

Melissa Bynes Brooks is the editor of BrooksSleepReview.

Contact information:

Follow on Twitter @Mlbbrooks


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