What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The costliness of the Afghan vs. the Iraqi campaign: Some data!!!

Yes, actually, it IS a possibility to look at data. Even while all those amateur strategists will give enlightening talks with sophisticated wording about how "although we cannot make a definitive case regarding the counterfactual issue of what strategic implications the absence of a sustained, intensive commitment would entail for U.S. interests on the regional and global levels, we cannot approach Afghanistan with the erroneous assumption of infinite resources. Devising a workable strategy requires taking into account the costs," by which they usually mean that spending anything on Afghanistan is inevitably too much. Sorry for launching a strawman drone at you, but this does no injustice to anyone. There are loads of examples of people saying just all of the above, and as I said, they do this in various übercomplicated forms.
Of course, the gist of this is important. A cheeseburger you cannot pay for is one cheeseburger you are not going to eat.
The interesting question is, where was all this smartness in the debate about Iraq? Ok, to a degree, similar voices could be heard. But not this loudly. Not with this influence. So did the numbers tell a different story there? Were the numbers more favourable there? Or are the above critics so weirdly inconsistent they can hardly call themselves brilliant strategists? I'm afraid the answer to the latter question is yes.
Let us hear the typical narrative first:
"Going on eight years, the Afghanistan war already rivals the Revolutionary War as the second-longest US armed conflict (after Vietnam). If it drags on another four years, it will become America’s longest war."
This is laughable, of course. The Afghanistan war is already America's longest war. It started on July 3, 1979, with President Carter signing a presidential finding authorising aid to insurgents in Afghanistan ("only" medical aid, communications gear, and some funding for psy-ops and propaganda, for a modest start, worth $500,000).
Still it does matter that...
"For the first time, the war in Afghanistan in the next budget year will cost Americans more than the war in Iraq. By the end of the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, the total military budget costs for both wars will have exceeded $1 trillion. That’s more than the cost of the Vietnam War, adjusting for inflation, or any other US war except World War II ($3.2 trillion in 2007 dollars)."
So we are talking two wars here. One for which costs are sunken costs. Even the non-sunken ones. The other is the one where one has to be economical. So the Afghanistan strategy is about winning (sort of) in Iraq and then doing something feasible in Afghanistan. Isn't that an anti-strategy?
Here is now a chart from this quite useful report from the Congressional Research Service, about the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, compared (sorry for the bad visibility, but that's what I can offer right now, along with the link to the original document in which you could take a look at page 9):
The story that needs to be told is that funding for Afghanistan fell back already twice. First because of the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, then because, well, the sh*t hit the fans in Iraq, in 2006.
Another thing to note is that even though CRS goes on to talk about OEF costs simply as though they would be identical to the costs of the Afghanistan campaign, you should remember that in fact OEF costs include the price of involvement in a number of other theatres as well, e.g. in the Horn of Africa... There is only one way someone could claim the costs are over 300 billion: taking into account NATO and other allies' costs, which are not insignificant at all, of course.
With requested 2010 spending counted in, Iraq is over 748 billion for the U.S., while Operation Enduring Freedom's costs are on the way towards reaching 300 billion. That is also very costly, but... see the arguments outlined above.
Now, one cannot slug it out, it is stated, so Afghans will have to fight it out for themselves/us (both of us). The Afghan police included. Their corrupt conduct is a problem, however, as you will hear all the time. So look at the ANP's resources. Well... Welcome to a sightseeing tour of the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan, financing much of what the ANP needs. An overview of its various "phases," and the resources pledged, committed and spent. Thanks to UNDP, the data is out there for all wannabe strategists.
"Phases I (1 November 2003 – 31 March 2004) and II (1 April 2004-31 March 2005) The estimated budget was US$ 275,846,292. The received and delivered amount is USS 119,995,564 with a US$ 136,746,820 shortfall. Some planned components were not implemented due to the shortage of funds.
Phase III (1 April 2005 – 31 March 2006)
The total target budget for phase III was US$ 159,340,000, including PPSS. During the mid-year revision of the budget the total budget was revised to US $ 164,550,000. The Trust Fund has received Euro 30,000,000 from EC for LOTFA Stage III. USA had also committed US $ 40,000,000 for the police remuneration and the amount was received by the Trust Fund. In addition, US$1,652,893 came from CIDA/Canada.
Phase IV (1 April 2006 – 31 August 2008)
An amount of US$ 297 million were contributed to LOTFA during phase IV of the project. The contributions helped the project meet its expenditures over the life time of the phase.
Phase V (1 September 2008-31 August 2010)
The total estimated budget of LOTFA for two year period is 454,500,158 as per project documents, committed 344,983,114 with the shortfall of 109,511,044 for this phase.
Donors: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, UNDP, United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Latvia, Iceland, Italy and UK Department for International Development (DFID)."
Let's look at the last phase... After all by this time it is the clearest priority to get the ANP right. Over 344 million have been committed. That can buy you about 5000 Hellfire missiles, counting with an irresponsible guessing methodology.
Conclusion? Thought of bribing the Taliban out of play? Try and bribe Afghanistan into play. Bribe the Afghan police. At the very least, try these things at the same time.

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