The average cost of each American soldier on the ground in Afghanistan is set to nearly double to $2.1 million in 2014, at a time when the US military as a whole is facing a contracting budget, according to a new analysis of the Pentagon’s war budget.
For the past five years the US government spent an average of $1.3 million to maintain each soldier in the occupied country.
But the costs keep soaring, and according to Pentagon officials, that is a reflection of the added cost of shipping troops and military equipment back home.
But many analysts are skeptical, arguing troop movements have been far greater in previous budget years when President Barack Obama ordered a “surge” in troops and the drawdown that followed.
“It was a bit of a shocker to me,” Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis said in a military newsletter.
“One would also expect to have observed a similar increase in costs when these forces were initially deployed to Afghanistan,” the budget analyst noted.
During the “surge” years of 2010 and 2011, when additional troops and equipment were sent into Afghanistan, military bases were expanded, and new equipment was purchased, there was no visible spike in costs, he explained.
“The Pentagon seems instead to be estimating costs dramatically higher than the troop levels would justify, as part of their ongoing efforts to get more funding at as many levels as possible,” Jason Ditz, editor at Antiwar.com wrote in an article for the website.
The hike in expenditure for the longest war in US history comes as Afghanistan and the United States are still at odds over a host of issues in the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).
Washington demands that all American troops who will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 must enjoy full immunity from Afghan prosecution, a request that authorities in Kabul see as a carte blanche for foreigners to violate their sovereignty.
The United States wants to keep as many as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, but if no agreement is signed, all American troops would have to leave by Dec. 31, 2014.
There currently are an estimated 87,000 US-led troops in the country, including about 52,000 Americans.