Questions about Casualties, Cost in Afghanistan Stump Top U.S Officials

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Afghanistan, the top three U.S. government officials fail to answer two simple questions about the casualties of U.S. troops and cost of war in Afghanistan

When the three top U.S. government officials respond with discomfited excuses and puzzled silence to two plain and simple questions about the U.S. casualties and war cost in Afghanistan, something is seriously wrong with the plan, policy and execution.

During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Afghanistan on Wednesday, Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, asked two unambiguous questions: How many American troops have died in Afghanistan this year? And how much is the war in Afghanistan costing the country?

“Nobody knows the total budget, what we’re spending in Afghanistan. It’s a hearing on Afghanistan. Can I have an estimate? He was greeted with silence and murmur as the questions left everyone stumped. None of the witnesses present at the hearing had an answer. “We’re supposed to believe that you have a plan that is going to end up in a positive way in Afghanistan?” Rohrabacher asked. “Holy cow!”

Mr. Rohrabacher’s scathing questions came during a two-hour hearing on U.S. policy in Afghanistan that clearly exposed the frustration of Congress with U.S. policy in the war-weary country as Obama administration seeks to push through the US-Afghan security agreement that allows the U.S. troops to stay back in Afghanistan post 2014.

Mr. Rohrabacher termed it ‘disheartening’, while Gerry Connolly, Virginia Democrat, called it ‘a stunning development’. “I say to the panel, Mr. Rohrabacker is right. How you can come to a congressional oversight hearing on this subject, with your titles and not know how much we are spending every year and not know how many casualties we incur this last year, I will say to chairman of this committee, is actually a stunning, stunning development,” said Mr. Connolly.

It was a moment of huge embarrassment for James F. Dobbins, U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan; Donald Sampler, Assistant to the Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; and Michael Dumont, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.

Experts believe that President Obama’s domestic issues regarding health care program and nuclear talks with Iran have overshadowed U.S. interest in Afghanistan, where it is engaged in the longest war. “At a time when U.S. government is seeking to continue its presence in Afghanistan by signing the security agreement, it is unbelievable how they can be so callous and ignorant about such crucial matters like the casualties and the cost of war,” says Wadir Safi, Kabul-based political commentator. 

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