The cost of America's failed strategy in Afghanistan

 The US failed to bring stability, peace and democracy in Afghanistan after 20 years of war and occupation

The American strategy in Afghanistan has failed. The American taxpayers have paid heavy financial price of this misconceived war and political strategy. The money that was spent on war and military machine could have transformed Afghanistan. 

Thousands of schools, hospitals, roads, modern transport infrastructure, dams and canals could have been build with this money. The American and allied coalition forces lost lives in this war. The only real success of this longest American war is the military defeat of Taliban for first few years. If the purpose of this war was to completely eliminate the Taliban fighters then this war failed to achieve this goal. 

There were high hopes of economic development, decent and safe life, education, health,  peace, stability, freedoms and democracy in Afghanistan when 20 years ago  American and coalition forces removed Taliban government.

There were hopes that war and violence will end and stability and lasting peace will return.  After spending billions of dollars every year on military occupation and war in Afghanistan, the US is leaving behind a corrupt, unstable and weak government, rising violence and unrest and fears of new civil war.

If the purpose of this war was to make Afghanistan a place of peace, stability, democracy, rule of law and dignified life then the US has failed to achieve this. 

In the wake of President Joe Biden's announcement that he plans to withdraw all regular U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by this year's anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, experts at the Costs of War Project on Friday released an update on what nearly two decades of war has cost in both financial and human lives.

An estimated 241,000 people have died as a direct result of the war, and the United States has spent $2.26 trillion on military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion, according to the project, housed at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and Boston University's Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.

"These horrific numbers are testament to the costs of war, first to the Afghan people, and then to the soldiers and people of the United States," said project co-director and Brown University professor Catherine Lutz in a statement. "Ending the war as soon as possible is the only rational and humane thing to do."

The new Costs of War Project figures are part of a nearly decade long effort by co-director and Boston University professor Neta Crawford to track the costs of post-9/11 wars in not only Afghanistan,but also Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and beyond.

The death tally includes U.S. military and contractors, Department of Defense civilians, Afghan and Pakistani national military and police, other allied troops, civilians, opposition fighters, journalists and media workers, and humanitarian aid workers. The project notes that "these figures do not include deaths caused by disease, loss of access to food, water, infrastructure, and/or other indirect consequences of the war."

The financial costs include Overseas Contingency Operations budgets of the U.S. Defense and State departments, the DOD's base-budget war-related increases, veteran care, and estimated interest on money borrowed to fund the war. It does not included future costs of veteran care or future interest payments.

"The DOD spending, at over $900 billion in Afghanistan, is the tip of the iceberg," Crawford said. "The costs of the Afghanistan war include its escalation into Pakistan, millions of refugees and displaced persons, the toll in lives of combatants and noncombatants, and the need to care for America's veterans. The Pentagon's base budget has increased as well."

What exactly did the America accomplished in Afghanistan war and occupation? The government has spent over $2.26 trillion dollars on a war that has brought deaths of 2,378 U.S. military men and women, plus more than 20,000 injured, which does not include those suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and moral injury, and those who committed suicide. Add the deaths and injuries of allied troops and military contractors. Also, we must not forget the untold numbers of civilians who died or were injured, and the millions of Afghan refugees and internally displaced Afghans.

The U.S. government will leave Afghanistan in the hands of a corrupt and inept government, which the U.S. backed for almost 20 years, as well as in the hands of the Taliban, which currently controls over half the country. Without an effective U.N.-negotiated peace plan for power sharing, it is very likely that the Afghanistan government will collapse, leading to much more internal violence. Twenty years of war and U.S. interference have brought no long-term, positive gains in Afghanistan. 

The US failed to bring peace, democracy, or freedom for Afghan people.  Afghanistan's elections were flagrantly fraudulent. American occupation  failed improve the lives of the Afghan people. The necessities of life are in short supply—water, electricity, healthcare, education. And there are no jobs other than the opium trade, which supplies 90% of the world’s opium—a big contributor to the opioid epidemic.

                                                            Khalid Bhatti 

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