Controversy over the brutally botched and long-overdue U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan continues to swirl, but very few people, particularly on the right, have suggested that these failures should trigger a reevaluation of our military’s spending priorities.
Congress is in the process of passing the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which, prior to the predictable collapse of the Afghan Security Forces, still planned to throw money at Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s request for $715 billion in Department of Defense funding to Congress included $3.3 billion for the now-defunct Afghan Security Forces and $14.3 billion worth of unspecified “direct war requirements” that cover Afghanistan, on top of the $27.8 billion for “enduring requirements.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee finished marking up the bill in July and largely signed off on this spending, even though the $17.6 billion in Afghan Security Forces funding and “direct war requirements” added to about the same amount of money the U.S. spent on the war in Afghanistan in 2003, and about $2 billion more than it did in 2004, when we had around 15,000 troops in the country. The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the bill, which appropriates $705 billion for our national defense, settled on just over $3 billion for the Afghan Security Forces in their own markup in July, but on the precondition that “the Afghanistan Security Forces are controlled by a civilian, representative government that is committed to protecting human rights.” But the Afghan Security Forces are no more, and the fact remains that the government was poised to spend at least $17 billion more on a war we’re no longer fighting—as if losing wasn’t ugly enough.
The NDAA was already on a collision course for a conference committee, as the Senate Armed Service Committee’s version plans to appropriate $777.9 billion for national defense, while the House Armed Services Committee appropriated about $745 billion for our national defense—both of which are much higher than the aforementioned funding provided by the House Appropriation Committee. Now, these vested committees will have to figure out what to do with those Afghanistan dollars.