Pentagon postpones Afghanistan withdrawal to 2014
Published Nov 20, 2010 6:45 AM
In an affront to peace-loving people across the United States and around the
world, Washington is walking away from a promise to begin withdrawing U.S.
troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. According to the McClatchy Report, the
White House has decided to postpone the withdrawal until 2014. (Nov. 9)
This announcement came a week before a major NATO meeting in Lisbon to consider
how to turn over military operations to the Afghanistan military. It provided
one more reason for what are expected to be massive protests in Lisbon on Nov.
The New York Times on Nov. 11 described the new policy as “effectively a
victory for the military” in choosing the strategy. Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan,
had openly criticized the 2011 date before the Obama administration could even
announce they were rethinking their withdrawal policy. The administration still
denies that there has been any change in policy, even though Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton has come out publicly supporting the new date.
These events make up another gross violation of the principle of civilian
control of the military. But this is no surprise. In the U.S. the Pentagon has
effectively called the shots on questions of war and peace in every
administration since World War II.
Every president from both political parties has found it necessary to publicly
defer to “the commanders on the ground” before undertaking even the
smallest change in military policy. Even the famous firing of Gen. Douglas
McArthur by President Harry Truman during the 1950-1953 U.S. war on Korea was
only done after Truman had secured the support of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of
This latest incident is all the more egregious because the earlier date of
withdrawal was part of an agreement between President Barack Obama and his
generals. During a period of declining popular support for the war, Obama
agreed to increase U.S. troop levels by 30,000 and backed increased offensive
actions by the military in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was openly admitted
that this would cause increased casualties for both NATO troops and Afghan
This “surge,” the generals told Obama, would beat down the Afghan
resistance enough so that military operations could be turned over to the
puppet Afghan government beginning in July 2011.
The cost of war
According to a CNN and Opinion Research Corporation poll released on Oct. 15,
support for the war in Afghanistan has never been lower, with only 37 percent
of all U.S. residents favoring it, and 52 percent saying the war in Afghanistan
has become a Vietnam-type war. Meanwhile, most of the NATO allies of the U.S.
are busy with plans for withdrawing their own troops.
For all their so-called concern about big government spending, the right-wing
politicos in Congress and elsewhere have had little to say about the war in
Afghanistan during or since the recent midterm elections. Where they have
spoken out has been to support the military.
Yet the projected cost of another three years of fighting in Afghanistan is
staggering and rarely reported. Assuming the current pattern of American
casualties and costs through 2012, followed by a 50 percent reduction in those
figures in 2013-14, Pentagon data reveal the following:
• October 2001-November 2010: U.S. troops killed, 1378; U.S. troops
wounded, 9,256; direct taxpayer costs, $364 billion.
• 2011 projection: 450 more U.S. troops killed, bringing the
cumulative total to 1,850; 5,000 more wounded, bringing the cumulative total to
14,800; another $113 billion in direct taxpayer costs, bringing the cumulative
total to $503 billion.
• 2012 projection: at present rates, the cumulative death toll will
become 2,300; the cumulative wounded number will become 19,800; and the
cumulative budget cost will become $616 billion.
• 2013-14 projections (assuming a 50 percent reduction): another 450
killed over two years, bringing the total to 2,750; another 5,000 wounded over
two years, bringing the total to 24,800; another $113 billion over two years,
bringing the total to $728 billion. (Tom Hayden, “Will the War in
Afghanistan Ever End?” thenation.com, Nov. 12)
In plainer terms, the projected U.S. casualties and costs in Afghanistan
will double from present levels over the next three years. Meanwhile, the
military-industrial complex clamors against health care and demands tax cuts
for the rich.
According to the Nov.-Dec. 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, the war in
Afghanistan is now more than twice as expensive as the one in Iraq.
(Altman-Haass, “American profligacy and American Power,” p. 31)
Those numbers do not include Pakistan, Yemen or tens of billions of dollars in
the growing U.S. intelligence budget. Nor do the tax-dollar figures include
rising indirect costs such as veterans’ health care. Nor are the
casualties of Afghan civilians known or estimated.
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