Fun with Arithmetic: Winning the War in Afghanistan

Michael Nasuti of Kabul Press recently published an article in which he calculated that killing each Taliban soldier in Afghanistan costs on average of $50 million to the US. The article, seemingly carefully researched with all assumptions laid out so that anyone can examine them, is well worth reading. Nasuti, “Killing Each Taliban Soldier Costs $50 million.”

He points out that at this rate, killing the entire Taliban forces (only 35,000) would cost $1.7 trillion, not a small amount for a country suffering from a severe economic downturn to spend on a war with no apparent purpose. And Nasuti’s number, of course, assumes that they could not be replaced faster than they are killed, but it appears that they can — easily.

Nasuti, who actually uses a “conservative” number (assuming that he has under-counted the number of Taliban casualties by one half), states that he had previously served “at a senior level” in the United States Air Force. He says:

The reason for these exorbitant costs is that United States has the world’s most mechanized, computerized, weaponized and synchronized military, not to mention the most pampered (at least at Forward Operating Bases). An estimated 150,000 civilian contractors support, protect, feed and cater to the American personnel in Afghanistan … The ponderous American war machine is a logistics nightmare and a maintenance train wreck.

He concludes:

The Taliban’s best ally within the United States may be the Pentagon, whose contempt for fiscal responsibility and accountability may force a premature U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Americans cannot continue to fund these Pentagon excesses.

But Nasuti’s cost estimates are only the beginning. Afghanistan had until recently the highest fertility rate in the world (7.5, now down to 7.1) and its population doubles roughly every 20 years even under the stress of war. At a current population of 34 million, gaining by 800,000/yr,  it can lose in order of magnitude 400,000 men per year more than it is presently losing to war without net population loss. That, using Nasuti’s figures, would be at a cost to the US of $20 trillion/yr to stay even, when we have a GDP of about $12 trillion. And there is no apparent reason why the Taliban could not go on in perpetuity suffering losses of 2000/yr (Nasuti’s estimate of the true numbers), or many times that, because 2000 is only approximately half of one percent of the numbers of available men each year without population loss.

Of course, all that is assuming that the Taliban can recruit within Afghanistan as its men are lost. Clearly at least the numbers are there, however, because of Afghanistan’s extraordinary rate of population growth.

In the understatement of the year, Mr. Nasuti suggests, “A public discussion should be taking place in the United States regarding whether the Taliban have become too expensive an enemy to defeat.”

Any bets on whether we’ll win this one (assuming anyone can explain what “winning this one” means) without changing our strategy?

Nicholas Arguimbau is a retired environmental and death penalty lawyer living in Western Massachusetts. He planted an 800-foot line of fruit trees with much help from his friends, and thinks an investment in fruit trees will beat an investment in gold flat out. He writes on-line on subjects close to global warming. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Nicholas.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on October 29th, 2010 at 7:43am #

    What is the meaning of spending money on war w.o. apparent purpose?
    The purpose of occupation had been obvious: puppetize an highly dysfunctional empire [set up by empires] and build permament bases there and keep the three major ethnicities fighting among selves and to ensure that it is ruled by owners of people.

    What nasuti or nicholas [i an not sure who’s saying this] is saying is that since US masters of people are not divulging why US is in afgh’n, the purpose cannot be even postulated let alone affirmed or known!

    Back to ? sarge Shultz: i see nutting; ich kennt nichts! tnx

  2. bozh said on October 29th, 2010 at 7:49am #

    I forgot to ask nicholas or nasuti why partizani of slovenia, greece are called slovenes and greeks, but partizani [freedom fighters] of pashtunstan are called talibans? tnx

  3. hayate said on October 30th, 2010 at 12:35am #

    The money spent is not something israeloamerica/eu ziofascists/fascists factor in to their war on Afghanistan. The subhuman rubbish benefiting from this aggression are not footing the bill. They never foot any bills.

    The israeloamerican/eu ziofascists/fascists have no business being in Afghanistan at all. Period. Get the fuck out.

  4. mary said on October 30th, 2010 at 12:42am #

    Add this in.

    Massive US Intel Cost Revealed: $80 Billion for 2010
    US Offers First Full Disclosure of Spying Costs Ever
    by Jason Ditz, October 28, 2010

    Following pledges from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper the US government has release its first ever figures detailing the entire cost of all American spying operations across its 17 civilian spy agencies and military intelligence organizations.

    The result was largely in keeping with previous DNI Dennis Blair’s estimate in Congressional testimony that the total cost for 2009 was $75 billion. The official figures for the entire 2010 cost is $80 billion, with $27 billion in military budgets and $53 billion spread around the CIA and other groups.

    This is presumably a record, though it is impossible to conclusively say as the US has never before released actual figures on its spending. The massive amount has sparked calls to reduce the overall spying budget, particularly given the budget crunch with record military spending.

    But while most domestic outlets compared to cost and noted it was higher than what the US spends on other programs, perhaps even more interesting is that the US spends more just on spying than Russia spends on its entire military.

  5. mary said on November 1st, 2010 at 4:54am #

    From the Medialens editors –

    ‘US imperial military presence unprecedented’: interview with Tom Engelhardt
    Posted by The Editors on November 1, 2010, 8:30 am

    RussiaToday | 31 October 2010

    The American military presence in the world is global, blogger and author Tom Engelhardt told RT. “The Pentagon usually admits yearly to about 800 military bases or sites from macro to micro, but in their account they do not include anything in war zones,” he said. “It is particularly strange because bases traditionally more or less were the way you kept colonies, but for us the bases are actually the thing.”

    “The US military now has a kind of secret military inside it and those are the special operations forces which have been incredibly beefed up and taken over certain activities that once were more CIA-type activities in the Bush and now Obama period… They are stationed now in 75 countries,” added Engelhardt. “There are only 192 countries in the UN — I think that is the latest figure — so you are talking about somewhere upwards of 40 percent just for special operations forces. It is a lot.”

  6. 3bancan said on November 1st, 2010 at 5:04am #

    mary said on November 1st, 2010 at 4:54am #

    Yesterday this comment didn’t make it through the “moderation”:
    mary said on October 31st, 2010 at 8:00am #
    “illustrating how far the Zionist tentacles reach into the UK even into airport security”
    That should be interpreted as benevolent care the Jews spend on the – as we all know from statements by Shimon Peres and the here regular poster MichaelKenny – antisemitic British goyim.
    My source
    says: “Ed Miliband narrowly defeated his elder brother David to become leader of Britain’s Labour Party”. So the “real choices” were – as expected – the two candidates “with Jewish roots”, the other three being there to give the public a semblance of a real competition. Imho a goy has practically no chance in winning against a Jew in the political arena – and not only there. And the source
    reports Peres saying: “But with Germany, relations are pretty good, as with Italy and France”, ie meaning that after Nicolas Sarkozy, a man “with Jewish roots”, we can expect a Jewish PM in Britain in the future…

  7. mary said on November 2nd, 2010 at 12:57am #

    Good for this student at Sussex University who objects to this NATO spin doctor being given a post.

    Student Tom Wills, pulled no punches, following a Jamie Shea lecture, in telling him why there was a campaign to get the university to withdraw his appointment.

    Tom highlights particularly Shea’s description of Afghan civilian deaths due to Nato bombing as a “mistake”.

    “You can’t say something was a mistake if you knew what was going to happen. You can’t possibly call in air strikes on residential areas and not expect that there will be civilian casualties. It is disengenuous and dishonest to say this is a mistake.”