A military helicopter hovers above a refugee camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct. 26, 2009. Helicopter crashes killed 14 Americans in the deadliest day for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan in more than 4 years.
"High Cost, Low Odds"
October 21, 2009
Author: Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs; Faculty Chair, International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Deciding what to do in Afghanistan requires a hard-nosed assessment of the costs of the war, the alleged benefits of victory and the likelihood of success.
We know the price will be high. The United States has spent more than $223 billion on the Afghan war since 2001, and it now costs roughly $65 billion annually. The actual bill will be significantly higher, however, as these figures omit the replacement cost of military equipment, veterans' benefits and other war-related expenses. Most important, more than 850 US soldiers have already been killed and several thousand have been seriously wounded.
And we are not close to winning. The Obama administration admits that the challenges are "daunting," and a recent pro-war report from the Center for American Progress said success will require "prolonged U.S. engagement using all elements of U.S. national power" for "as long as another ten years." Success also requires creating an army and police force larger than the Afghan government can afford, which means Kabul will need US assistance indefinitely.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
Full text of this publication is available at:
For Academic Citation: