Allies must help pay for the war, say US politicians

War on terrorism: Budget
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The Independent US

The military campaign in Afghanistan is costing the United States at least $1bn (£700m) a month, with the amount rising sharply as more troops are moved into the region.

The initial costs of the campaign were slight in comparison because the first month of the operation consisted almost entirely of air strikes, with the occasional use of special forces, largely as advisers to the Northern Alliance.

But now that America and its allies look likely to move more troops to Afghanistan and the surrounding countries, the costs are mounting. In the coming weeks, tasks such as upgrading airfields in central Asia to handle US transport planes and the deployment of additional aircraft will also add greatly to the cost.

Faced with a rapidly growing bill – increased further by actions such as the call-up of the National Guard to increase domestic security – some on Capitol Hill have started to question whether America's allies might contribute to the costs. In the 1991 Gulf War, most if not all of the $60bn final bill was paid by Arab nations and other countries including Japan. Some reports claim that the United States actually made a net profit.

Norm Dicks, a Democrat Representative, said in The New York Times yesterday: "Are our allies going to start putting up money or just troops and ships? One measure of their level of support this time will be how much money they are willing to put up."

Although the Pentagon has not released the official costs, it has told Congress it will need $3.8bn to pay for the first three months. Most of that is needed for operating expenses including jet fuel, spare parts and bonus pay for the 50,000 combat troops in the region.

The newspaper said a clearer view of the costs came from the Bush administration's plan to give to the Pentagon half of the $40bn in emergency funds authorised by Congress. This money will go not just to the direct costs of military operations but to pay for intelligence operations, stockpiles of munitions and rebuilding the Pentagon. Every Cruise missile America fires costs up to $1m, while a Pave Low helicopter, the sort lost in Afghanistan, costs about $40m.

The costs would increase most if large numbers of ground troops were deployed in the region, something the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has yet to indicate. Even if a large troop presence is not needed, America looks certain to expand the number of special forces it has on the ground.

Some argue that, with an annual budget of $329bn, the Pentagon is already well-funded. Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution, said: "Talk about a Pentagon budget of $400bn is out of line. I would consider $5bn for six months to be a big expense already."

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