The United States has spent well over $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency while also paying for relief and reconstruction in a seventeen-year long war that has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which was the reconstruction effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.
A weekend report in the The New York Times compares the flat out deception of official Pentagon statements vs. the reality in terms of the massive spending that has gone into the now-approaching two decade long "endless war" which began in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
The Times report details in its story, bluntly titled How the U.S. Government Misleads the Public on Afghanistan, how public perception has been carefully managed amidst pressure on military leaders to justify massive DoD taxpayer spending by claiming Taliban controlled territory is receding and the terrorists are on the run.
As the NYT report details, the exact opposite is the case:
But since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any time since the American invasion. In just one week last month, the insurgents killed 200 Afghan police officers and soldiers, overrunning two major Afghan bases and the city of Ghazni.
The American military says the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56 percent of the country. But that assessment relies on statistical sleight of hand. In many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest.
The report also provides shocking details of Afghan security forces greatly inflating their own numbers, likely in order to keep the bloated Washington money pipeline flowing into the country, which includes keeping "ghost" officers and absentee soldiers on their payrolls.
Lots of big Northern Virginia mansions were built on that money...stolen from the flag-wavers in fly-over territory... If they only knew... https://t.co/FFYgBrYKDm— Daniel McAdams (@DanielLMcAdams) September 8, 2018
When an Afghan police or military officer deserts his post or simply doesn't show up to work, supervisors simply keep them in the system. The report notes that Afghan officials estimate this to be the case for a whopping one-third of their total claimed security personnel numbers.
This means that though official Afghan security sources claim national forces outnumber Taliban fighters by 10 to 1, the reality on the ground is much different
And even reported "victories" routinely get inflated, resulting in stark contradictions among independent military analysts and official Pentagon sources.
The NYT finds the Taliban in reality may actually claim well over half the populated territory of country as opposed to the official US government claim that it controls or contests some 44% of districts across the country.
According to the Times:
The Afghan government says it killed 13,600 insurgents and arrested 2,000 more last year — nearly half the estimated 25,000 to 35,000 Taliban fighters an official United States report said were active in the country in 2017. But in January, United States officials said insurgents numbered at least 60,000, and Afghan officials recently estimated the Taliban’s strength at more than 77,000.
Meanwhile other studies by independent monitoring groups have tallied that America's longest running war has already topped over $1 trillion.
The website "The Balance" has been keeping track of Afghanistan's economic impact and says the conflict has now cost the U.S. at least $1.07 trillion since 2001.
You will find more statistics at Statista
That can be divided into three segments according to the independent report:
$773 billion can be attributed to Overseas Contingency Operations funds specifically dedicated to the war.
$243 billion comes from increases in the base budget of the Department of Defense...
while the increase in the Veterans Administration budget cost $54.2 billion.
Financing Afghanistan reached its zenith in 2010 amid Obama's surge when costs topped $112 billion.
That gradually dropped as U.S. troops shifted their focus away from offensive operations to concentrate more on training Afghan forces.
Last month it was revealed that the Trump administration is actually discussing the possibility of privatizing the war by handing its execution and advisement over to a "viceroy" that would oversee an army of mercenaries. One top contender competing to be a major contract recipient in Afghanistan is Blackwater founder Eric Prince and his multinational Frontier Services Group (FSG).
No doubt there are many more such shadowy figures and defense companies lined up to keep milking the Afghan quagmire for yet more years to come.