One of the critical elements of the strategy for Afghanistan laid out by President Obama last week is that the United States will train and equip an Afghan army and national police force that can defend and secure Afghanistan after 2014, thus allowing U.S. forces to leave. To date, this effort has been marginally successful as it is faced with corruption, desertions, illiteracy, and Taliban infiltration. Assuming, optimistically, that this Afghan force can be established, its annual payroll will be around $11 billion per year. The total tax revenue of the Afghan government is approximately $1.5-2.0 billion per year…a $9.0 billion shortfall. While the U.S. is laying off policemen, firefighters, paramedics and teachers in its own cities and considering reductions to U.S. service members and retirees pay and benefits to reduce the defense budget, who do you think will be paying this $9.0 billion to Afghan soldiers and national police into perpetuity? The argument will be “We spent all that money to create the police and military force. We can’t just walk away from it now.” Perhaps NOW is the time to ask this $9.0 billion question.
Major General (Ret.) Dennis Laich is the Director of the PATRIOTS Program(www.ODUPatriots.com) for veterans at Ohio Dominican University.
This entry is cross-posted at Generally Speaking.