Huge Costs for American Debacle in Afghanistan

The last deadly double explosions in the grounds of Kabul airport put in sharp relief – if one more was ever needed – of the US and its allies’ utter failure in the twenty-year Afghanistan democratization project.

International news agencies reported that at least ninety Afghan civilians and thirteen American soldiers were killed in the two explosions outside Kabul airport. Video shot by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport. The death toll may rise as dozens of severely wounded have been hospitalized. ISIS, the English acronym for the Islamic State (Daesh), took responsibility for the double attack, claiming that one of its suicide bombers targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”. Surely, the jihadists target ‘collaborators of the West’, however they kill indiscriminately. The severity of the situation prompted Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General, to express his ‘grave concern’ and to call an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

What is really worrying is the prospect of more deadly terrorist attacks. U.S. commanders are on alert for more attacks by ISIS, including possibly rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport, where Western powers’ hectic evacuation operations have been forced to come to halt. General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, appeared apologetic in saying that ‘some intelligence is being shared with the Taliban’ which led him to believe that the latter ‘thwarted some of the [Daesh-planned] attacks’. In other words, at this dire juncture, the US military intelligence is engaged in an operation of damage control. A horrified and distressed American President vowed for revenge saying: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.” Joe Biden has already ordered the Pentagon to draft operational plans on how to strike ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate which claimed responsibility for the carnage at Kabul airport.

But is it not too little too late? Any lessons learnt from the most costly and deadly US foreign and security policy operation in the 21st century? The numbers speak volumes. The twenty-year long American ‘War on Terror’ in Afghanistan has had mind-boggling costs and huge negative results as the new carnage adds up to an already abominable record. The figures in economic cost and human suffering and loss of life (published in Forbes) are phenomenal!

The US spent a total of two trillion dollars on the two decades long war terror. This figure translates to $300 million per day or $50,000 per Afghan citizen – in a country with a population of forty million people. American governments have been financing this war on loans. Researchers at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, have calculated that $500 million in interest has already been paid. Their estimate is that by 2050, the interest cost on the Afghan War debt alone will reach $6.5 trillion, equivalent to $20,000 for every US citizen.

About $800 billion related to direct war fighting costs. In addition, Washington spent $750 million per year for Afghan soldiers’ salaries.

Furthermore, eighty-five billion dollars were spent on training the Afghan military and security forces. The latter folded and surrendered to the Taliban in the weeks following the closure of the Bagram US Air Force Base in July. The closure of this important airbase effectively signaled the beginning of the end of the US-backed regime in Afghanistan: Afghan government armed forces could no longer count on decisive US air support to win the battle against the Taliban.

In comparative terms, as we are speaking about the world’s leading military power but also the world’s leader in corporate capitalism, let us remark that successive American administrations from George Bush to Joe Biden have spent more on the failed attempt to defeat the Taliban than the net wealth of Jeff Bezos (Amazon owner), Elon Musk (Tesla), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and the thirty richest billionaires in the US.

Sadly, the human cost of the War on Terror Operation is also phenomenally high: 47,000 Afghan civilian deaths; 69,000 Afghan security forces deaths 3,500 Coalition troops died of which 2,500 American military personnel; 4,000 US contractors’ deaths; 51,000 is the estimate of deaths of opposition fighters.

Moreover, three hundred billion dollars is the cost so far for medical treatment of about 20,000 wounded American soldiers and civilians. As one can imagine, this medical care cost is expected to shoot up to $500 billion in the years to come.

All in all, the Afghanistan affair amounts to a debacle: a huge failure of US foreign policy burdened with huge costs that American people will still be paying for years to come…