US to spend $5.7b on Afghan drawdown, Pakistan to be important route | Pakistan Today

US to spend $5.7b on Afghan drawdown, Pakistan to be important route

The United States (US) will spend about $5.7 billion over the next couple of years to withdraw most of its troops and equipment from Afghanistan, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
An opinion piece in The Washington Post Thursday revealed the US has spent nearly $600 billion over the past 10 years putting combat forces into Afghanistan.
“The size of the withdrawal is mind-boggling. But with the “fiscal cliff” approaching fast, it’s worth taking a moment to realise that the costly Afghan operation is going on a credit card, along with the $1 trillion or more spent in Iraq,” Walter Pincus said.
Analysing the high cost of disengagement, Pincus said Iraq and Afghanistan were the first US wars in which the American public was not asked to pay a cent in additional taxes.
A unique Afghan issue is supply routes, because of what the GAO described as the “complex geopolitical environment in the region.”
According to Pincus, the once-major Afghan supply routes through Pakistan, which were reopened in July, are considered to be in a test phase for materiel exiting Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department “faces challenges converting the northern routes to support outbound flow due to customs and diplomatic clearance issues,” said GAO.
Under early plans, the US Transportation Command projected that “14.2 percent of all returning equipment will be transported via the northern route, 19.9 percent via the Pakistan route and 65.8 percent via the air and sea transport method.”
Landlocked Afghanistan also has had high-priority military equipment, including ammunition, shipped in by sea and then by air. It can cost up to $75,000 to return one vehicle by military air and sea transport and up to $153,000 using commercial carriers, according to the GAO. Sending a vehicle by surface routes can cost up to $43,000.
Pincus noted that Congress and President Barack Obama were negotiating over increasing revenue and cutting spending, but the billions in Afghan withdrawal costs cannot be reduced and must be paid. Their payment will be considered next month when Congress faces an increase to the debt limit.
The Defense Department, meanwhile, estimates that the military services have more than 750,000 major items worth more than $36 billion in Afghanistan including about 50,000 vehicles and more than 90,000 shipping containers of materiel, according to the GAO report.

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