Commentary Magazine


Savings from an Afghanistan Withdrawal: Trivial

Earlier today I tried to point out that it is cheaper to pay for success in Afghanistan than to draw down precipitously and incur the costs of failure later on. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution expands on the argument in this excellent Washington Post op-ed. Specifically, O’Hanlon observes:

We’re already committed to spending $444 billion; no big savings are feasible this summer regardless of the president’s July decision. Even adopting a “counterterrorism plus” strategy similar to what the vice president purportedly favors would keep an average of perhaps 50,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan over the coming year, 30,000 the following year and 20,000 in the country thereafter, indefinitely.

In short, any savings from a reduction now would be trivial compared to the size of the investment we have already made in Afghanistan—and trivial too by comparison with our national debt of $14 trillion.

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