U.S. civilian surge to Afghanistan cost $2 bln - report

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 9, 2011 2:46am IST

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A surge of U.S. civilian advisers into Afghanistan has cost $2 billion so far, a U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday, calculating the price of an important part of President Obama's war strategy.

U.S. development experts are not much cheaper than the cost of sending soldiers to Afghanistan, according to data in the audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

The report said it was costing between $410,000 and $570,000 to deploy one civilian U.S. government employee to Afghanistan for a year.

By comparison, costs per U.S. soldier per year in Afghanistan grew to $697,000 this year from $667,000 in 2010 and $507,000 in 2009, the Congressional Research Service says.

The Obama administration announced an increase in civilian advisers -- experts on matters ranging from agriculture to courts -- to Afghanistan in 2009 to accompany an influx of over 30,000 U.S. combat troops there.

Part of what was dubbed a "smart power" strategy, the idea was to build on military gains with improvements in the lives of ordinary Afghans. Diplomats and development experts were sent to help boost economic growth as well as improve Afghan governing capacity and the rule of law.

The number of U.S. civilian employees in Afghanistan increased to 1,040 by June of this year from 320 in early 2009, said the audit by SIGAR, undertaken with the State Department's inspector general.

In June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress the civilian surge had peaked. But she did not say how quickly the numbers might be drawn down.

The SIGAR report comes as pressure is building in Congress to cut unpopular foreign aid programs in a time of austerity.

Lawmakers have already reduced some Afghan aid due to corruption concerns, and may slash further if they feel programs are too pricey. Many lawmakers are tiring of the war, which is costing the United States $110 billion this year.

Obama announced a plan in June to start bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan. But the SIGAR report suggests that handing off to U.S. diplomats and civilians in Afghanistan will not be inexpensive either.

"The U.S. miliary's withdrawal from Afghanistan will likely lead to cost increases for (the) State (department) due to key military security functions that State will assume," the audit said. Plans to open two new consulates in Afghanistan could increase costs, it said.

A congressional Democrat called on Thursday for reforming the way U.S. foreign aid is organized, saying that would be better than just "cutting blindly."

Representative Howard Berman said the system should be changed so the U.S. government can more easily transfer funds from one region or purpose to another during crises -- and opportunities like the "Arab Spring" uprisings against authoritarian rulers.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

PM Meets The Press

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Easing Interest Rate

Easing Interest Rate

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley favours interest rate cut - paper  Full Article 

Bollywood Update

Bollywood Update

Movie Review: Happy New Year.  Full Article 

School Shooting

School Shooting

Two killed, four wounded in Washington state school shooting.  Full Article 

Bigger Role

Bigger Role

Google's Pichai to oversee major products and services.  Full Article 

Diwali Glitter

Diwali Glitter

Gold sales jump about 20 pct for Diwali - trade body  Full Article 

ISL Ban

ISL Ban

Pires gets two-match ISL ban for tunnel altercation.  Full Article 

New World Bank Rival

New World Bank Rival

Three major nations absent as China launches World Bank rival in Asia  Full Article 

Kalki Interview

Kalki on Margarita

Kalki on her role in “Margarita, With a Straw”  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage