Afghanistan by the Numbers
Todayâ€™s Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) report provides the following estimates.
Total Cost of the Afghanistan War (2001-02 to 2010-11): $18.1 billion
Past Cost (2001-02 to 2007-08): $10.5 billion
Future Cost (2008-09 to 2010-11): $7.7 billion
These figures are incremental costs, â€œcosts that would not have been incurred except for the operation. Alternatively put, these would be the total savings to the Government of Canada had Canada not been involved in the Afghanistan mission.â€ (p. 6)
In other words, the federal government could save $7.7 billion by leaving Afghanistan now. By comparison, the NDP platform cautiously estimated a â€œPeace Dividendâ€ of only $2.8 billion.
PBO suggests that some of the remaining $4.9 billion has not been budgeted: â€œthe actual incremental costs of the mission could exceed the Parliamentary appropriations.â€ (p. 10)
Proponents of staying in Afghanistan through 2011 must explain how they would finance these unbudgeted costs. Any portion of the $4.9 billion that is covered by existing appropriations must be considered an addition to the NDPâ€™s proposed â€œPeace Dividend.â€
Todayâ€™s report breaks down spending between military operations, veteransâ€™ benefits and aid:
Military – $7.4 billion (70%)
Veterans – $2.1 billion (20%)
Aid – $1.0 billion (10%)
Total – $10.5 billion (100%)
Military – $5.7 billion (74%)
Veterans – $1.3 billion (17%)
Aid – $0.7 billion (9%)
Total – $7.7 billion (100%)
As was already well known, the lionâ€™s share of resources have gone to the war effort instead of humanitarian or development aid. Going forward, the Government of Canada will apparently increase the proportion spent on military operations and decrease the proportion spent on benefits for veterans and assistance for Afghans.
Note: The PBO provides both lower-bound and upper-bound estimates. I have cited the upper-bound figures because the report itself indicates, â€œthe PBO estimate may likely understate the costs of the military operations.â€ (p. 7)