When President Obama announced his troop escalation in Afghanistan one year ago, I wasn't shy about saying the new strategy would make the insurgency worse. I believed the economic and human costs would be far too high, crippling our ability to recover from a deep recession.
Unfortunately, since the escalated campaign began in Marjah last February, those beliefs have been validated. This past year was the most deadly - both for our troops and for civilians - and the most financially costly of the war so far. It's clear that the military escalation in Afghanistan has failed to live up to the promises of its supporters, and it's time to bring our troops home.
Afghanistan was a much more violent place in 2010 compared to 2009, averaging 33 insurgent-initiated attacks every single day. That meant a record 499 U.S. deaths in a single year. More Afghans were killed in 2010 than 2009 as well. Despite the presence of 30,000 additional troops, military reports show that in 2010 the insurgency had a broader presence and could mount more sophisticated attacks.
The costs of the war also skyrocketed in 2010. With each troop deployed for a year in Afghanistan costing taxpayers $1 million, monthly costs for the war increased 63 percent in 2010 to $5.7 billion. This year the war is expected to cost Americans roughly $107 billion. Those are huge costs, especially when you consider that defense spending is one of the least effective ways to help the economy.
These costs help explain why a large majority of Americans are clamoring for Congress to end the war. A whopping 72 percent of those surveyed want us to pass legislation this year speeding up troop withdrawals, with a large plurality feeling that way "strongly." One committed group ran the first-ever television ad calling for an end to the war, created by Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan campaign. One of the people featured in the ad, Pamela Kemp, says that "it's time to imagine what this nation would be if we focused our resources on education as we do in war."
This war has cost the taxpayers in my congressional district more than $580 million so far. That's enough money to hire 11,278 elementary school teachers for a year, or to send 84,653 students to college for a year. These are just some of the bad tradeoffs we're making by spending our national resources on war instead of on fixing problems here at home. Ask yourself: which would you rather have? A war that's not making us safer and that's not worth the cost, or a more educated, more prosperous America?
I and some of my colleagues in the House of Representatives are working to bring this war to an end. I'm proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep. Barbara Lee's bill, introduced today, that would force the responsible redeployment of our forces from Afghanistan. This week, I've been working with fellow progressives in the House to attach language to appropriations bills that would limit the expenditure of federal funds on war. These steps will be important to end the war, but the real power has to come from everyday Americans demanding their representatives stop wasting our national treasure on failed policies overseas.
We've got some hard work to do this year to stop the war in Afghanistan, but with your support, we'll get there.
Follow Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RepRaulGrijalva