Friday, October 23, 2009

$400.00/gallon gas drives debate over afghan war

TheHill | The Pentagon pays an average of $400 to put a gallon of fuel into a combat vehicle or aircraft in Afghanistan.

The statistic is likely to play into the escalating debate in Congress over the cost of a war that entered its ninth year last week.

Pentagon officials have told the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee a gallon of fuel costs the military about $400 by the time it arrives in the remote locations in Afghanistan where U.S. troops operate.

“It is a number that we were not aware of and it is worrisome,” Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense panel, said in an interview with The Hill. “When I heard that figure from the Defense Department, we started looking into it.”

The Pentagon comptroller’s office provided the fuel statistic to the committee staff when it was asked for a breakdown of why every 1,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan costs $1 billion. The Obama administration uses this estimate in calculating the cost of sending more troops to Afghanistan.

The Obama administration is engaged in an internal debate over its future strategy in Afghanistan. Part of this debate concerns whether to increase the number of U.S. troops in that country.

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, reportedly has requested that about 40,000 additional troops be sent.
Democrats in Congress are divided over whether to send more combat troops to stabilize Afghanistan in the face of waning public support for the war.

Any additional troops and operations likely will have to be paid for through a supplemental spending bill next year, something Murtha has said he already anticipates.

Afghanistan — with its lack of infrastructure, challenging geography and increased roadside bomb attacks — is a logistical nightmare for the U.S. military, according to congressional sources, and it is expensive to transport fuel and other supplies.