War in Afghanistan Will Cost 45bn Dollars This Year, Pentagon Warns

The war in Afghanistan will cost 45 billion dollars this year, the Defense Department’s top Asia official told Senate lawmakers. According to the assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs Randall Schriver, the sum includes about 13 billion dollars for U.S. forces in the country, five billion dollars for Afghan forces, 780 million dollars for economic aid and the rest of the money are for logistical support, The Hill reports.

Six months ago, President Donald Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy. Schriver spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in its first hearing since the announcement. It is not known how much the new strategy would cost since the Pentagon official could not say that.

The 2018 costs drew criticism and lawmakers wanted to know if the plan will force the Taliban to the table for peace talks and end the war that lasts for more than 16 years.

Last month, Trump said that “there’s no talking to the Taliban.” Back in August, he announced he would send more American troops to Afghanistan in a new strategy to train, assist and advise more Afghan fighters. The plan has increased the number of forces in Afghanistan from 8,400 to 14,000 and has no end date, The Hill reminds.

According to Senator Rand Paul, billions of dollars are being thrown down a hatch in Afghanistan and the people there don’t seem to be able to defend themselves.

“I think there’s an argument to be made that our national security is actually made more perilous the more we spend and the longer we stay there. … We’re in an impossible situation. I just don’t think there is a military solution,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Jeff Merkley asked why the Taliban would want a political settlement when they control more territory than they did since 2001 when the United States invaded Afghanistan. Yet, Senator Bob Corker thinks that this strategy is better than the Obama administration’s strategy because it is not limited by a timetable and pressures Pakistan to stop supporting Afghan terrorist groups.

Some estimates say that there are about 60,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials don’t think the same.

“I’d say around 60 percent of the country is controlled by the government, a fraction of it is contested and about 10 or 15 percent is possibly Taliban controlled. I think we can chase numbers and say it’s 9,000 or it’s 15,000 all day but I don’t think it’s actually a terribly useful metric,” Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said.

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