Push for New Drone Strikes in Pakistan, Plus New Afghanistan Plans Costing Taxpayers Up to $125 Billion
Things are looking rather grim, as always, in our overseas conflict in Afghanistan and the surrounding area.
As the Pentagon pushes for more drone strikes in Pakistan (the kind that have killed dozens of civilians and inspired the failed Times Square bomber) Obama has told NATO that he's open to "soft" troop withdrawal plans that could lead to billions more in cost.
TheWashington Post reports that the US requested that the Pakistani government allow the drones the ability to fly over a larger area, particularly pockets near the city of Quetta, believed to be a Taliban base. The Pakistani government has refused, but allowed the CIA more operating room in the area. The Post reportson considerable sniping back and forth, with both countries playing the blame game:
The disagreement over the scope of the drone program underscores broader tensions between the United States and Pakistan, wary allies that are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising levels of insurgent violence on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Meanwhile, as NATO leaders discuss Afghanistan strategy at a summit in Lisbon, the "withdrawal deadline" of 2011 is looking more and more like a mere ceremonial transfer, with actual withdrawal beginning in 2014.
The Christian Science Monitor crunches the numbers on this extended timeframe:
So how much extra would it cost if the bulk of the withdrawal starts rather than finishes around 2014? About $125 billion, says Mr. Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, at that's just through 2014. He uses two different troop level scenarios – one high, and one low. He calculates costs based $1.1 million per soldier per year, which reflects the five-year average in Afghanistan.