THE BLOG
07/29/2010 01:32 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What's Wrong With the War in Afghanistan

Today, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Congresswoman Woolsey and I co-hosted a briefing to discuss the most pressing foreign policy issue facing our country today -- the war in Afghanistan.

As the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Afghanistan Taskforce, I am very interested in ensuring that the Progressive Caucus and the rest of my colleagues in Congress have sufficient information to make informed decisions about this war.

We are at a very dangerous and difficult time in this war.

We are funding the longest war in US history. This is our 105th month at war in Afghanistan, compared with 103 months in Vietnam.

We are funding the most expensive war in US history, in terms of cost-per-soldier, at $1 million per soldier per year. That's $100 billion a year -- and that's just for the troops. Keep in mind this is money we do not have. It is deficit-funded, putting our country further in debt.

We are funding pervasive corruption among all contractors, American, foreign, and Afghan. The skimming and pocketing of massive amounts of money is prevalent. All too common is the story of a $7 million project landing on the ground with only $700,000 left to build the intended road, school or hospital. Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Tierney's recent report highlights how rife corruption is throughout the contracting community.

We are funding an unprecedented and unaccountable privatized model for "clearing, holding and building" in Afghanistan. Seventy percent of all defense dollars are going to private contractors who remain outside the purview of strict auditing, accountability, and monitoring and evaluation measures. We witnessed tens of billions of lost dollars in Iraq; we are now witnessing the same in Afghanistan. State and USAID have largely become granting agencies, having lost much of their internal reconstruction and stabilization capacities.

Only ten percent of all US-funded development dollars stay in Afghanistan -- the rest return to contractor countries. Only thirty percent of all US-funded defense dollars remain in Afghanistan. Eighty percent of these monies circumvent the Afghan government entirely. This makes it near impossible for Afghans to provide state-based self-governance and security.

We are funding the wrong strategy. Rand Corporation notes that more than 84 percent of insurgent groups are dismantled by good intelligence, policing and negotiations. A combat-heavy approach will not work. It did not work in Marjah and it will not work in Kandahar. The threat is far more sophisticated and amorphous. The Counter Insurgency manual recommends an 80 percent focus on economic and political capacity building, with a 20% focus on military. In Afghanistan, the opposite is employed with 90 percent of funding focused on military, and only 10 percent on building sustainable political and economic structures.

Lastly, the Wikileaks report is just the latest indication that we are fumbling on all fronts in Afghanistan, from security to development to governance and reaffirms my call for effective and independent monitoring and evaluation of U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

I could go on and talk about mounting civilian casualties and misguided strategies in training and staffing Afghan security forces.

Those of you who share my concerns with this war must continue to voice our critique, intelligibly, tactfully and loudly.

Too few in Washington are questioning US strategy in Afghanistan, and I thank these panelists who examined thoughtfully and thoroughly our strategy for its effectiveness.

Rep Michael Honda is the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus's Afghanistan Taskforce.