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U.S. spending on Afghanistan and the United Nations

A soldier drinks some water in a helicopter while returning from a mission on November 2, 2011. The U.S. spends much more money a year in Afghanistan than on aid to the United Nations.

Steve Chiotakis: Even though troops have exited Iraq, the debate about how much the U.S. spent there -- and whether it was worth it -- continues in this country. But in Afghanistan, tens of thousands of American forces are still on the ground. Of course no war is just about dollars and cents -- but that's what we're focusing on today.

So we turn to The Globalist's editor-in-chief Stephan Richter, who's with us now to quiz us on what we know about the cost of American involvement in Afghanistan. Hey Stephan.

Stephan Richter: Good morning Steve. Are you ready?

Chiotakis: I am ready. Hit me.

Richter: So here's today's quiz.

Chiotakis: All right.

Richter: The United States currently spends about $115 billion a year on military operations and related costs in Afghanistan.

Chiotakis: OK.

Richter: We also rely on United Nations for support in that country, as well as on foreign partners around the world. But let's compare the level of U.S. spending in Afghanistan to all U.S. spending on the United Nations.

Where do we invest more money? That's my question to you today. Is it A) that we invest just one-twentieth as much in the UN as we spend every year in Afghanistan.

Chiotakis: One-twentieth, OK.

Richter: Or is that for every dollar we spend on military operations in Afghanistan, we spend just a quarter on the UN. Or, do we spend about the same on both?

Chiotakis: I knew for a while there, the U.S. hadn't paid it's UN bill. There's always been that little piece of information that's been out there. But I'm going to take a guess -- hopefully an educated guess -- and say that it's a nickel for every dollar, one-twentieth.

Richter: That is absolutely correct. But it is shocking, isn't it?

Chiotakis: It is shocking, it is shocking. It's not much money.

Richter: For the UN it wasn't. The billion we spend -- $6.4 billion a year as of 2009 -- on everything that the United States dispenses on the UN. And that's the equivalent of basically what we spend in about two or three weeks in Afghanistan.

But it gets worse. The U.S. spends as much on military operations in Afghanistan as the rich countries give to poor countries in the same year. And whether that always gets us ahead and gets us the bang for the buck that we would hope -- that is a very open question that ultimately, of course, history will determine.

Chiotakis: History certainly will determine. All right, Stephan Richter, editor-in-chief of TheGlobalist.com. Stephan thanks.

Richter: You're welcome. Bye bye.

About the author

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, a daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture.

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