Guest Post: Afghanistan - Obama's War

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Steve Hanke, Professor of Applied Economics at The Johns Hopkins University,

Last week, when President Obama made his trip to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, he claimed that "America's war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end." This turned out to be the greatest applause line of his speech. With his assertion, Obama, in effect, declared himself the hero of the Afghan war -- the one who put an end to that nightmare. But what Obama failed to mention was that it was his war, and that nothing but unattractive scenarios lie ahead for that war-torn state. Indeed, Afghanistan might just continue to hold down its ranking as the most violent country in the Global Peace Index.

This gloomy prognosis would not have surprised Thomas Jefferson. Yes, Jefferson's words point to a fundamental truth, "Governments constantly choose between telling lies and fighting wars, with the end result always being the same. One will always lead to the other."

Graciana del Castillo, one of the world's leading experts on failed states, has just written a most edifying book on the Afghan war (Guilty Party: The International Community in Afghanistan. Xlibris, 2014). Del Castillo's book allows us to finally understand just what a fiasco the Afghan war has been.

Why is Afghanistan, as Bob Woodward correctly termed it, Obama's war? Del Castillo's sharp pencil work shows that during the period 2002-2013, $650 billion have been appropriated for the Afghan war effort, and a whopping $487.5 billion of that (or 75 percent) took place after President Obama took office (see accompanying chart).

If one pulls apart that $650 billion price tag, a variety of interesting sleights-of-hand emerge. For example, about $70 billion was disbursed to what is euphemistically termed "reconstruction." But, in reality, 60 percent of this $70 billion (or $42 billion) was actually spent on beefing up the Afghan National Security Forces. And not surprisingly, 75 percent of the $42 billion spent on national security forces was spent under President Obama's watchful eye.

To put these outsized numbers into perspective, just consider that the total cost of the Afghan war from 2002-2013 amounts to $7089 per American taxpayer (based on the number of income tax returns). More revealing is the fact that the annual expenditure rate under the Bush administration was already $222 per taxpayer. Then, it exploded to an annual expenditure rate of $1329 per taxpayer under President Obama.

In addition to laying out the phenomenal spending magnitudes on President Obama's watch, del Castillo demonstrates just how unsustainable all this Afghan spending is. For example, in 2013, the United States financed over $5 billion of the $6.5 billion needed to field the Afghan National Security Forces. This $5 billion of U.S. financing was roughly 10 times more than the Afghan government actually spent from its own revenue sources. In fact, the U.S. funding of Afghan forces was almost three times the total revenue collected by the Afghan government.

To put Afghanistan's financing gap into perspective, the Afghan government estimates the total fiscal deficiency that they will face over the next decade would amount to a whopping $120 billion. Considering that a July 2013 Washington Post/ABC poll showed that only 28 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has been worth the cost, it is unlikely that the U.S. would even contemplate continuing to finance the house of cards it has built at anything close to these estimates.

And if this isn't bad enough, consider that the countryside has been forgotten and neglected during the war years. It is here where 75-80 percent of the population resides, and produces its livelihood. The rural population has done what is only natural -- farm a cash crop. And, the most attractive cash crop in Afghanistan is poppies. Not surprisingly, the poppy plantations have greatly expanded, from 75,000 hectares in 2002 (near the start of the war), to over 210 thousand in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 190 thousand hectares in 2007. Just another small example of the collateral damage associated with war and misguided economic policies in Afghanistan.

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NoDebt's picture

That's why they call Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires.  The US is just one of a long line of empires that have beaten their heads bloody against that land.  That it was Obama who doubled-down on that theatre should be a surprise to no one.

ACP's picture

Yeah if aliens ever invade Earth, tell them Afghanistan has the most abundant natural resources on the planet, and bust out the popcorn.

max2205's picture

They broke Russia and they broke us.....

disabledvet's picture



The sad part with Vietnam...we were never "in it to win it."

I think this was the first war in US History "about absolutely nothing" actually. At least the Russians had the excuse of wanting a warm water port.

Keep those checks from Party Israel comin'!!!

Don't forget the voter and your Blame Bo Bergdahl campaign too!

AldousHuxley's picture

surge in Afghanistan was to decrease unemployment in AMerica by having low skill men and women go dig ditches off the record.


WAR....always the answer for bad economy.

TBT or not TBT's picture

The problems were twofold:
We were in both this League of Nations 2.0 called the UN and this cold war vehicle called NATO whiie also having thin majorities in both of houses of Congress. The object was to, immediately, go fuck some assholes, because dicks fuck assholes, chuck. But to make it all legitimate and shit we rolled in the pussies of NATO.

Jadr's picture

You believe there is actually a difference between the two parties in the realm of foreign policy, how quaint.  Both parties serve the same agenda with different hot button social issues they use to appear as different from one another.

holmes's picture

Check a map. Afghanistan is land locked.

sessinpo's picture

max2205   They broke Russia and they broke us.....


Russia broke Russia and the US broke the US. It's time for self responsibility.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

1. Disagree.  They didn't "break" the US, because the real purpose had NOTHING to do with what was proclaimed.

2. It was all about preventing an Iran-China pipeline running through Afghanistan, after the US was politely declined by the Taliban (their former "friends") with its own pipeline plans.  Just as we saw Nuland & Friends fuck up Ukraine, we did the same to Afghanistan -- out of Neocon spite.  Plus the Opium/Heroin trade has been good for the CIA.  To them, it's "Mission Accomplished".  But not in the same sense you the rest of us see it "accomplished" -- because they will keep stirring the pot, to prevent the Iran-China pipeline from being built.

3. As long as the USD is the GRC, the Fed's "currency creation" can and will continue to be exported to the rest of the planet -- thus exporting our financial problems.  The music keeps playing for the Fed.

4. When the music stops -- and it will -- the US will either have civil war at home (due to the Reset), or they will manufacture a global war.  Alternatively, they will first seek a global currency like the SDR as a "safe haven" to hide behind.  If that fails, it's WW3.  This time it will be fought here also, with 'merican libertarians targeted as "enemies".

PT's picture

Re "Last week, when President Obama made his trip to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, he claimed that 'America's war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.'" :

Does this mean that, once again, it is time for "one last troop surge"?

TBT or not TBT's picture

Hey now. No paying attention.

jez's picture

"Last week, when President Obama made his trip to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, he claimed that 'America's war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.'"




You should support your president there. There's nothing worse than an irresponsible end to a war.


Except maybe an irresponsible beginning.

CuttingEdge's picture

"A responsible end" can only mean leaving the place just as royally fucked up as every other country these twats in Washington decide to interfere with. Something like 80-odd US attempts at regime change since 1953 - and look at the carnage they always leave behind. 

eurogold's picture

Yeah Baby ! Next up, the Ukraine ! Second Nobel Peace Prize is in the mail !

OpenThePodBayDoorHAL's picture

"If you like your war, you can keep your war"

Obomba continues to win my coveted Worst.President.Ever Award, beating Grover Cleveland and Jimmy Carter by a comfortable margin. And Carter at least gets points for managing 4 years without firing a shot.

drendebe10's picture

What else would anyone expect from the ignorant arrigant narcissistic illegal alien siciopathic liar in chief.  Hoo-rah..

LuciusGermanicus's picture

The Mongol Empire didn't die in Afghanistan.

That being said...I thought this was the 'right' war. If only we had thrown all our resources into it instead of being side tracked in Iraq.

What is the narrative again? That we won a bunch of mud huts and reopened a movie theater in Kabul.

Sounds legit.

EDIT: Maybe Obama is setting up his Elphinstone.

RafterManFMJ's picture

My name is 0bam0, and my master approves this message.

Dr. Engali's picture

Bush's war, Obama 's war, what's the difference? Nothing, they are both two stooges advancing a plan that had been set in place long ago.

As a reminder General Wesley Clark told us they were going to take down seven countries in five years:

Seek_Truth's picture

And once again, for future reference, I am pointing out that IRAN will be the successor to the USA, no matter how implausible that "May seem" to our dear readers. - revelation 17:11

Jadr's picture

Fairy tales are cool.

PT's picture

Not many fairy tales have a Deuteronomy 23:20 in them.  That's my favourite verse at the moment.  Everyone sez its a fairy tale and then expects us to get all surprised when they discover ...

There's other fun bits, but that is my personal "flavour-of-the-month" ... for the last few months.


Guess I should have a squizz at that other verse.

JustObserving's picture

The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be about $6000 billion compared to cost of the Vietnam war of $738 billion in 2011 dollars. The high cost of the Vietnam war forced the US off the gold standard on August 15, 1971. But now the Fed can print trillions without any economic consequences (yet) so we can have unending wars. 

The decade-long American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would end up costing as much as $6 trillion, the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household, calculates the prestigious Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. 

Remember, when President George Bush’s National Economic Council Director, Lawrence Lindsey, had told the country’s largest newspaper “The Wall Street Journal” that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion, he had found himself under intense fire from his colleagues in the administration who claimed that this was a gross overestimation.

 Consequently, Lawrence Lindsey was forced to resign

According to the Harvard University report, some 1.56 million US troops56 per cent of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans—were receiving medical treatment at Veterans Administration facilities and would be granted benefits for the rest of their lives.

Can you believe that it costs $1 million to deploy a single soldier to Afghanistan for a year?

With over 60,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, it is estimated that the cost of deploying one American soldier for one year in this war amounts to $1 million



TeethVillage88s's picture

Good Article. VA Medical Costs didn't increase as much as one might be lead to believe from the literature and document summaries though. 151% increase in VA Medical from 1999???!!! I guess they pay VA Bonus money for not spending on Treatment of Military Personnel.!!?? Cheap ass Congress!!

2013 VA Medical Care = $44.7 Billion
1999 VA Medical Care = $17.8 Billion

“Overall, the Veterans Administration’s budget has more than doubled over the past decade, from $61.4 billion in 2001 to $140.3 billion in 2013..."

drendebe10's picture

But the ruling political elite turds voted to exemot yhemselves from obamadcre cuz yhey knew VA quality nightmare bureaucratic cate is coming to your neighborhood soon!  

max2205's picture

Don't you fuckers know they said there will be a huge peace dividend. ..ROTFLMAO!

TBT or not TBT's picture

The increase comes from the Vietnam vets, of which there were far, far more, and who are at the age where health heads down the shitter. So talk to is about LBJ in this context.

tony wilson's picture

i can read i suppose

but alas cannot write.

dropped on my head as a lad

breathed in and out old car fumes of carbon monoxide and lead.

never listened in school.

vac crime scened with needles full of petrochemical cures for diseases i did not have.

ho hum


i have heard of chomski and pilger bernstein and woodward seymour hershey bar christopher alcopop hitchens.

 what do those icons have these men of letters have in common with thousands of other truth lovin newsmen and woman?


none of them have ever talked of the cia the mossad and the mi6 never mentioned the  camp bond steal and the helmand H.

poppies for young men

profits for royals of  old.

for queen and her boss of the roth blood red shield

TeethVillage88s's picture

Camp Bond Steel. Wonder what happened there. I just saw some video or article about how US Sent in Contractors & Troops, but sort of supported the Muslims or the first genociders. I guess it was VICE Video. I don't know the truth here. Not sure the difference between Bosnia & Kosovo. Kosovo was a bigger country in Yugoslavia that was mostly Muslim. Then for some reason the Muslims (according to VICE) started ethnic cleansing the Christians? But the story is the US wanted to use Muslim Proxies to start up tensions... so they let it go after they probably started it & encouraged it. I think they said Bin Ladin was in Kosovo to take part in the Terror....? Wow.

tony wilson's picture

camp bond steel gate way to the world

prains's picture

sometimes Tony the really smart dudes know enough to TALK AROUND the obvious and expand on an idea WITHOUT naming's called subtle...and subtle ain't a soda pop.

somethings are implied, like the need to take perscribed meds when needed


dudes have to get paid to write down their ideas and logic says be subtle in your message so the dumb fucks miss the point but the real smart ones read between the lines, ergo you KEEP getting paid to write down your ideas. Naming names is for r'tard cabernet 2014 whiners........are YOU one?

tony wilson's picture

a nice jewish talk all around the houses really.

just a closed satanic jewish loop no room for truth just chatham house tavistock psy

humble_man's picture

please keep spinning your poetry, brother

Reaper's picture

Obama, the Prince of Peace, to embellish his image fought a losing war in Afghanistan. How many fools and innocents died for his glory?

g'kar's picture

Here is a site that lists wounded and deaths in Afghanistan:


Emperor NeRoBaMa sure has a spike during his current reign.


Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"The rural population has done what is only natural -- farm a cash crop. And, the most attractive cash crop in Afghanistan is poppies."

May all your poopies poppies be the CIA's cash crop.

Yen Cross's picture

     The current administration reminds me of a 3-rd world banana republic.

  Yhe USKKA can never go Japan! Never! 

  The USKKA is Europe and Southern Asia. The USKKA is close  to losing Sovereign Hedgemony.

 The uskka needs uskka fiat to fuel the ranch.

Oldwood's picture

One thing is for sure. It will be whoever's war the media says it is. How many died from collateral damage in the eight months of bombing Libya? How many have died in attacks in Iraq this year? How many soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year? What is the status of Iraq, Libya, Egypt and anywhere else they don't want to talk about.

Bush was evil for going to war yet he had votes from congress for his actions. they may have been based upon lies or misinformation but before that even came into the discussion, he was beaten about the head daily on this and the media was there reporting it minute by minute. We had all the major Democrats laying the most extreme claims of criminality and malfeasance against bush from the first day.

Obama can go to war against Libya and send advisors into Syria and where is the media? they are missing in action and anyone who would claim otherwise is blind an stupid. Obama will do as he wishes and tell the rest of to go to hell to our faces, and the media won't say a fucking word.

One And Only's picture

The MSM just feels like another government department. I never get news from main stream news outlets any longer. It's kind of an ebarassment as an American.

therearetoomanyidiots's picture

Don't forget the depleted uranium rounds....a gift that keeps on giving.

Freebird's picture

Ah, must be after the airmiles..

nmewn's picture

Another Peace Prize in the offing.

g'kar's picture

Did we run out of grassy knolls?

A Lunatic's picture

Introducing the portable grassy knoll in a box, by Ronco......ammo not included.......

g'kar's picture

Sorry but it is Ron Popeil's Pocket Grassy Knoll.

A Lunatic's picture

No, that version came with an Easy Bake Oven......

g'kar's picture

Hmm, I could've sworn that came with the FEMA ovens. I may be wrong though.