10/07/2011 01:31 pm ET | Updated Dec 07, 2011

A Decade in Afghanistan: Thousands Dead, Billions of Dollars Wasted

Today, America marks its 10th year of war in Afghanistan. This is a war we never should have started; yet we did so with money we never had. It is imperative that we end this war responsibly and swiftly. Our economy and our service men and women will continue to suffer greatly until we do.

This milestone represents nearly half a trillion dollars in direct war spending and thousands of American and Afghan casualties. We continue to pour billions into this war at a time we should be investing in our economy. Adding in the long-term cost projections -- including veterans' benefits, interest payments and war-related aid -- the Eisenhower Research Project estimates our actual spending will total at least $3.2 trillion for both the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The way our government spends taxpayer money reflects our country's values and interests. The percentage of Americans who oppose our continued involvement in Afghanistan is at an all-time high of 63 percent. Even veterans of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show little support for these wars. According to a Pew Research Center survey of post-9/11 veterans, "just one-third say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting." This rising tide of opposition should come as no surprise.

The losses since the war in Afghanistan began have been immense, and the situation is not improving. After a decade of extraordinary cost and sacrifice, this August was the deadliest month yet for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

If not with their lives, service men and women are paying in other ways, as are their families and caregivers. Those who survive are returning wounded, some coming home with Traumatic Brain Injury and often-underreported cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Their rate of suicide is twice that of civilians. And as of 2008, about 2 million children had dealt with having a parent deployed to a war zone.

The astonishing amount of money taxpayers have spent on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars -- an average of $130 billion annually -- could have been better invested in efforts aligned with Americans' values, and in particular, job creation. The Eisenhower Research Project's "Costs of War" project, sponsored by Brown University, estimates that a year of war funding could have sparked 936,000 education jobs, 780,000 health care jobs, or 364,000 constructions jobs.

Perhaps now that Washington is obsessed with deficit reduction, we will finally stop spending lives, money and diplomatic capital on senseless and immoral wars. There is no way to responsibly reduce the deficit without ending the war in Afghanistan.

We don't want to commemorate an 11th anniversary in Afghanistan. For both moral and fiscal reasons, the U.S. must change course and set a clear exit strategy to ensure we bring our troops home.