It’s Official: Afghanistan Is More Expensive To Rebuild Than World War II Europe

news
Bill Stratton, Army Corps of Engineers, puts mortar on a brick as he demonstrates the proper technique used when constructing a wall, Feb. 3, Laghman province, northeastern Afghanistan.
Army photo

When World War II came to a close, the United States put up roughly $120 billion in today’s dollars to rebuild Europe under the vaunted Marshall Plan. That still-celebrated project not only restored much of the continent physically after the war’s ravages, it also launched an era of economic prosperity that modernized much of the developed West.


Afghanistan is a different story.

“Adjusted for inflation, American spending to reconstruct Afghanistan now exceeds the total expended to rebuild all of Western Europe under the Marshall Plan,” military historian Andrew Bacevich writes in a New York Times op-ed published Monday. He goes on:

For this, over the past 15 years, nearly 2,400 American soldiers have died, and 20,000 more have been wounded… Why has Washington ceased to care about the Afghan war

The answer, it seems to me, is this: As with budget deficits or cost overruns on weapons purchases, members of the national security apparatus — elected and appointed officials, senior military officers and other policy insiders — accept war as a normal condition.

Since its launch in October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom and its successor, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, have run up a tab of $686 billion, with $113 billion going toward reconstruction since 2002. Adjusted for inflation, that figure exceeds the Marshall Plan’s $120 billion, according to a 2016 report from the inspector general.

And the United States’ objectives are nowhere near completion in Afghanistan.

“To have any hope of surviving, the Afghan government will for the foreseeable future remain almost completely dependent on outside support,” Bacevich writes. “The United States has invested $70 billion in rebuilding Afghan security forces, [but] only 63% of the country’s districts are under government control, with significant territory lost to the Taliban over the past year.”

The country continues to face widescale corruption, and will continue to rely on military aid. Most recent estimates put U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan at 8,400, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will soon set new troop levels.

The U.S. objective in Afghanistan “is the same now as it was in 2001: to prevent terrorists from using the country's territory to attack our homeland,” write Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. John McCain in a March 14 op-ed for The Washington Post. “We seek to achieve this objective by supporting Afghan governance and security institutions as they become capable of standing on their own, defending their country and defeating our common terrorist enemies with less U.S. assistance over time.” If Bacevich’s analysis is anywhere near correct, our kids may be chasing those same objectives years from now.

Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

Dawn Brys got an early taste of the crisis unfolding at the largest Veterans Affairs hospital in the Southeast.

The Air Force vet said she went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur last year for surgery on a broken foot. But the doctor called it off because the surgical instruments hadn't been properly sterilized.

"The tools had condensation on them," recalled Brys, a 50-year-old Marietta resident. The doctor rescheduled it for the next day.

Now the 400-plus-bed hospital on Clairmont Road that serves about 120,000 military veterans is in a state of emergency. It suspended routine surgeries in late September after a string of incidents that exposed mismanagement and dangerous practices. It hopes to resume normal operations by early November as it struggles to retrain staff and hire new nurses.

The partial shutdown came about two weeks after Joel Marrable, a cancer patient in the same VA complex, was found covered with more than 100 ant bites by his daughter. Also in September, the hospital's canteen was temporarily closed for a pest investigation.

The mounting problems triggered a leadership shakeup Sept. 17, when regional director Leslie Wiggins was put on administrative leave. Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, the regional medical director, was moved to administrative duties pending an investigation. Seven staff members were reassigned to non-patient care.

The only question for some military veterans and staff is why the VA waited so long. They say problems existed for years under Wiggins' leadership, but little was done.

Read More Show Less

The former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks that the VA needs to start researching medical marijuana. Not in a bit. Not soon. Right goddamn now.

Read More Show Less
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney takes questions during a news briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2019. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's withholding of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine was linked to his request that the Ukrainians look into a claim — debunked as a conspiracy theory — about the 2016 U.S. election, a senior presidential aide said on Thursday, the first time the White House acknowledged such a connection.

Trump and administration officials had denied for weeks that they had demanded a "quid pro quo" - a Latin phrase meaning a favor for a favor - for delivering the U.S. aid, a key part of a controversy that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives against the Republican president.

But Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged in a briefing with reporters that the U.S. aid — already approved by Congress — was held up partly over Trump's concerns about a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server alleged to be in Ukraine.

"I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy," Mulvaney said.

Read More Show Less

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (Reuters) - Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.

Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.

The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.

The SDF said air and artillery attacks continued to target its positions and civilian targets in Ral al Ain.

"Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.

The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras al Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.

Read More Show Less

Boyfriends can sometimes do some really weird shit. Much of it is well-meaning: A boy I liked in high school once sang me a screamo song that he wrote over the phone. He thought it would be sweet, and while I appreciated that he wanted to share it with me, I also had no idea what he was saying. Ah, young love.

Sure, this sounds cringeworthy. But then there's 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, who appears to be, dare I say, the best boyfriend?

Read More Show Less