Published June 22, 2011
Tonight the president will address the nation and promise to do what he's been promising to do for months - bring our troops home from Afghanistan - now the longest war in American history.
Obviously the most important cost has been that of human lives - more than 16 hundred U.S. men and women have died there.
But there's another cost - the price tag for American taxpayers. The U.S. has already run up a $443 billion dollar tab in Afghanistan, and much of that has come in the last few years.
Since the war began ten years ago - the amount spent has increased every year. In 2008, the U.S. spent $43 billion and this year we'll hit $118 billion.
The price tag goes up as the number of boots on the ground increases. Some reports have the cost coming in at $1 million per soldier, per year.
Tonight many predict the president will announce a drawdown of ten thousand troops by the end of the year - but the savings from that move will be a drop in the bucket.
The Center for a New American Security estimates if Obama was to bring home 15,000 troops, the taxpayers would only see $7 billion returned this year.
That's $7 out of $118 billion.
And that's just the wars in Afghanistan. Including Iraq, total spending over the last decade is nearly $1.5 trillion - or almost the entire deficit for a year.
No one is going to begrudge our men and women in uniform the money they need to succeed in their mission and to keep them safe. But these dollars aren't just for our military. Much of it goes to the Afghan government and Afghan forces.
And that has people at home fired up! Back in 2005 the U.S. spent only a little over a billion dollars on Afghan security forces, and this year we're heading to $12 billion. That money isn't producing results economically either - the GDP of Afghanistan was only $27 billion in 2010. That's less than a quarter of what we spent on the country this year.
That has pushed the mayors of this country's biggest cities into a foreign policy fight for the first time since the war in Vietnam. The U.S. Conference of Mayors this week says the money spent overseas might have stopped them from having to lay off 28,000 Americans last month alone.
Plus even if every troop comes home - the costs aren't going to stop there. An International Relations Professor at Boston University says, "The total cost of the war... should not be measured solely by the costs of financing the troops... it should also include long-term costs of the war, primarily veterans' benefits for the returning soldiers, who will require medical and mental health services for many years to come."
If that's not enough to convince our commander-in-chief enough is enough, then maybe in an election year this will.
A recent Washington Post poll shows more than half of Americans don't think the war is worth it. Whether or not you've supported this war from the start, you can't deny the cost it's having.
We are $14 trillion in the hole and 14 million of us are out of work. Cities like Detroit and Cleveland need to be our focus - not Baghdad and Kandahar.