Afghanistan by the Numbers: Measuring a War Gone to Hell
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New chief of staff of the British Army, General Sir David Richards: "The Army's role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years." (After much criticism, he retracted the statement.)
New NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: NATO's mission in Afghanistan will last "as long as it takes" to ensure that the country is secure.
Afghanistan by the Numbers
Cost of a Kalakov (the Afghan name for a new model of Kalashnikov): $1,100. (For a $150 surcharge, you can have it delivered to southern Afghanistan.)
Cost of a kilo of heroin in Afghanistan: $2,500. (Cost of that same kilo in Moscow: an estimated $100,000.)
Cost in police bribes of getting contraband into or out of Afghanistan: "$20 on each weapon, $100 for a kilo of heroin and $1,000 for each thousand kilos of hashish."
Afghanistan's ranking among the globe's "weakest states," according to the Brookings Institution: second weakest. (It is also regularly referred to as the world's fourth poorest country.)
Unemployment rate in Afghanistan, according to the CIA World Factbook: 40% (2008 figures).
Monthly wage for Afghan National Police: $110 (less than $4 per day).
How long it may take to get a case through a government court (with bribes): 4-5 years.
How long it may take to get a case through a Taliban court (without bribes): 1 day.
Number of registered Afghan refugees still in Iran and Pakistan: 3 million.
The Next War
The price tag the Obama administration's budget team reportedly put on U.S. future wars almost every year through 2019: More than $100 billion a year.
The cost of equipping seven Army brigades with a Boeing advanced coordinated system of hand-held drones, robots, sensors, and other battlefield surveillance equipment over the next two years: $2 billion.
Date when all 73 Army active and reserve brigades will be equipped with the system: 2025.
What Can't Be Measured
Here's a conundrum to be considered and filed away under the rubric "impossible to measure" as you leave the world of Afghan War metrics: The U.S. continues to struggle to train Afghan police and soldiers who will actually turn out and fight with discipline (see above). In the meantime, as a recent Washington Post piece by Karen DeYoung indicated, the Taliban regularly turn out fighters who are reportedly using ever more sophisticated and tenacious fire-and-maneuver techniques against the overwhelming firepower of U.S. and NATO forces. ("To many of the Americans, it appeared as if the insurgents had attended something akin to the U.S. Army's Ranger school, which teaches soldiers how to fight in small groups in austere environments.")
Both groups are, of course, Afghans. It might be worth considering why "their" Afghans are the fierce fighters of history books and legend and ours, despite billions of dollars and massive training efforts, are not. This puzzling situation had its parallel in Vietnam decades ago when American military advisors regularly claimed they would give up a division of U.S.-trained South Vietnamese forces for a single battalion of "VC."
Here's something to carry away with you: Life is invariably hard when you set up your massive embassies, your regional command centers, your election advisors, your private security guards, your military trainers and advisors, your diplomats and civilian enablers and then try to come up with a formula for motivating the locals to do your bidding.