By Debbie Gregory.
An article written by Kevin Baron, executive editor of Defense One, stipulated that each troop in Afghanistan will nearly double in cost in the last year of the war, to $2.1 million. For the past five years the average troop cost roughly $1.3 million. Defense Department officials argue the added cost is a reflection of the price of sending troops and equipment back home in the 2014 drawdown.
Todd Harrison is the Fellow for Defense Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Harrison disagrees with the explanation for the rising cost of troops, and argued that the US has been moving far greater amounts of troops and equipment in 2008-2013 budget years.
Harrison also notes the cost of training and equipping Afghan security forces – who will be required to fill the security void when US forces complete their exit to the tune of $7.7 billion – as yet another reason for the rising cost of the Afghan war.
Included in the higher cost per service member is the cost of private contractors used to perform military functions previously performed by military personnel, such as “laundry, food service, maintenance, and some security functions.”
The U. S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan poses enormous logistical challenge. Afghanistan is a land-locked country halfway around the world. It has few rail lines, poor roads and is surrounded by mountainous terrain. The Pentagon’s budget to ship all gear home is between $5-$7 billion.
According to Pentagon officials, military logisticians would like to send home 60 percent of their equipment and vehicles by trucking them into Pakistan, and then loading them onto ships — the least expensive method by far. But cargo is flowing out on that route at only one-third the planned rate.
The U.S. is being forced to fly massive amounts of gear and equipment out of Afghanistan instead of using cheaper overland and sea routes.
The Afghanistan government tried to extort money from the Pentagon and it’s contractors by closing the border with Pakistan, demanding $70 million in customs “fines”. The issue was resolved and Kabul re-opened the border.
The final cost will hinge greatly on the extent to which the military can rely on the ground routes through Pakistan. The alternative is to load the equipment on cargo planes and fly it back to the United States.