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Author: TriSec    Date: 03/24/2015 10:15:42

Good Morning.

Today is our 278th day back in Iraq.

There have been no new casualties in either theatre.

And so, we find this morning's Cost of War passing through:

$ 1, 613, 288, 225, 000 .00

We'll head over to Afghanistan to start today. A few months back, it seemed that the end was in sight, and we even stopped tracking the days of our involvement here. But now it seems all for naught; that December 2015 deadline to get most of the troops home is on the verge of extension for another two years now.

The United States assured Afghanistan's leaders on Monday it would keep funding Afghan security forces at a targeted peak level of 352,000 personnel at least into 2017 to provide stability as foreign troops withdraw from the country.

The announcement by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter came ahead of talks at the White House on Tuesday at which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is expected to press his case for a slowing of the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

After a day of talks at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Carter, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghan leaders were at pains to avoid getting ahead of the White House talks, at which Obama is expected to respond to Ghani's plea.

However, in response to a question at a joint news conference, Kerry said, "It’s our knowledge that President Obama is actively considering that request."

Ghani replaced Hamid Karzai as Afghan president last year and enjoys a much smoother relationship with Washington.

Earlier on Monday, he delivered an address to U.S. soldiers and military families at the Pentagon and sought to reassure Americans of the value of their sacrifice in lives lost and money spent in the battle against al Qaeda and other extremists in more than 13 years of war in Afghanistan.

Noting that more than 2,215 Americans had been killed and 20,000 wounded, he said, "Each one of you has left a legacy, but I also understand that Afghanistan has marked you."

Ghani's words of gratitude marked a sharp contrast with Karzai, who left office last year accusing the United States of inflicting a war on his country that intensified with the drawdown of U.S. forces.

With a more friendly partner in Ghani, U.S. officials acknowledge that conditions have changed since May when Obama declared that by the end of 2015 the U.S. force would be roughly halved from the current total of about 10,000 and would operate only from bases in Kabul and Bagram.

The U.S. military has been drawing up revised options and a senior U.S. official told Reuters last week the U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad were likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015.

So of course we remain at war with Eastasia, as we always have been. But that's not the only place where we've always been at war. Even though the active fighting has stopped in the deserts of Mesopotamia, there's still a call for arms in that region. But it's not the military this time - now there's a call for more mercenaries, or "contractors" as they prefer to be called. Apparently, every US soldier at war requires 3 civilians to support him, if the ratios in the story are to be believed.

The Department of Defense only has about 250 civilian contractors in Iraq supporting the 2,700 US troops deployed there; but a handful of new solicitations and potential contracts may soon add to that number, according to items posted to a federal contracting Web site.

For the past two decades, the resource-heavy American way of war has dictated that where US troops go, civilian contractors follow. It's a way of doing business that has become ingrained in the Pentagon's culture as end strength has slowly been whittled away while global commitments show no sign of slackening.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have doubled down on the practice, with the number of contractors more than doubling the number of uniformed personnel on the ground at various points over the past decade.

And it's a trend that continues in Afghanistan, where the 10,000 US troops there are dwarfed by the 39,600 contractors supporting their training and advising mission, 14,200 of which are American citizens.

In Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said in an email, DoD contractors are tightly focused in their activities, "primarily performing translator/interpreter, communications, logistics, and maintenance functions."

Overall, there are about 5,000 mainly State Department contractors in Iraq which represents a relatively modest footprint as compared to previous years, where there were over 160,000 during the height of the fighting. There are also 54,000 civilian contractors working across the Middle East for US Central Command.

Finally, if you read this space on Saturday, we had a comparison of military cost overruns, and the difference between caring for veterans and buying new military hardware. (You can guess where the outrage is.) But there's more to add to that cost of war reported every week at the top of this page. Fighting ISIS isn't cheap, even though we only do it with aircraft and drones at this time.

The cost of the U.S. campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has passed $2.4 billion since President Obama authorized sending U.S. forces to the region last June, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Currently, the U.S. has 2,875 troops in Iraq, and U.S. warplanes have conducted a total of 2,893 airstrikes that have hit 5,314 targets since bombing began last Aug. 8, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The cost of the campaign through March 12 was $1.83 billion, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. He also noted that the daily costs had escalated significantly to about $8.5 million daily, up from about $1 million daily last summer. The daily costs through March 19 would put the total at more than $2.4 billion.

The Pentagon statistics on Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed that the airstrikes had destroyed 73 tanks, 282 Humvees, 85 armored personnel carriers, 47 artillery pieces and more than 1,000 technical and miscellaneous vehicles.

At least 58 boats were also destroyed. ISIS is known to use small boats to ferry supplies on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

The Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve has put a premium on hitting ISIS infrastructure, and the list showed that the airstrikes had destroyed nearly 1,500 buildings used by the terror group in Iraq and Syria for communications, supplies, logistics and command and control.

I should say something pithy about the only declared candidate for President at this time, but I can only say this - they sure do love war, don't they?

36 comments (Latest Comment: 03/24/2015 22:07:48 by Raine)
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