Support Marketplace

Troop reduction won't stop military spending on Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier from Viper Company (Bravo), 1-26 Infantry, stands guard on a watch in the east of Afghanistan.

UPDATED REPORT

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: President Obama will talk to the nation tonight about his plans to bring home a limited number of troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. spends more than $120 billion a year on Afghanistan.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports on how that could change with troops coming home.


EVE TROEH: President Obama's expected to say he's bringing 10,000 troops home by the end of the year. That's one-third of the additional forces he sent to war as part of last year's surge.

Gordon Adams is a Foreign Policy professor at American University. He says the drawdown's a drop in the bucket for military spending and won't do much to cut the U.S. deficit.

GORDON ADAMS:There's some savings in terms of hazardous duty pay, in terms of pays and benefits that go to families when they're overseas, but that's almost dust level savings, it's hardly measurable.

He says troops coming home will still be on the payroll, so not much savings there.

Gayle Lemmon studies Afghanistan's economy at the Council on Foreign Relations. She says fewer U.S. troops means some increased security risk there. But Afghanis are more concerned with economic risk, and the long-term plan for foreign aid.

GAYLE LEMMON:You know there was a group of women visiting Washington last week, asking really what does engagement after 2014 look like? And that is an open question.

2014 is when combat's scheduled to end in Afghanistan. There's no plan to wean the country off foreign aid beyond then. A study from the Senate Foreign Relations committee says without a new, less-corrupt government, Afghanistan's economy will collapse when the U.S. pulls out.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.



ORIGINAL REPORT

JEREMY HOBSON: Tonight President Obama will address the nation on the subject of reducing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. There are obvious military and political considerations but in this economic climate the financial implications of any drawdown aren't being ignored. The U.S. will spend about $120 billion in Afghanistan this year. But just how much would a troop reduction cut the deficit?

Here's Marketplace's Eve Troeh.


EVE TROEH: When he takes the stage tonight, President Obama is expected to announce that 10,000 troops will come home by the end of this year. That's one-third of the extra troops he sent to war as part of last year's surge in Afghanistan. Criticism for spending on the war has grown as the national debt has grown.

Gordon Adams studies Foreign Policy at American University. He says the drawdown's a drop in the bucket. The war will still require billions of dollars in special budget approvals for years to come.

GORDON ADAMS: There's some savings in terms of hazardous duty pay, in terms of benefits that go to families when they're overseas, but that's almost dust-level savings, it's hardly measurable.

Adams says troops coming home won't leave the military altogether. They'll still be on the payroll. That means the government won't save much money from this drawdown.

He says the real savings will only come once major combat ends. That's scheduled for 2014.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...