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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 30, 2006

U.S. needs strategy to justify Iraq costs

A new study lays out the U.S.'s future spending for Iraq at $2 billion a week.

The estimate was released this week by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which said the total cost of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 attacks could reach close to $550 billion. The CRS took the White House budget for the new fiscal year that begins tomorrow $110 billion and added what the U.S. has already spent to date: $437 billion.

Context is also important here: To spend nearly $550 billion since 2001 is not much compared to an overall defense budget for 2007 alone at $448 billion.

Still, the new pricetag underscores the need for a solid strategy going forward in Iraq. And it represents an investment that shows we won't be leaving or scaling back anytime soon.

For the first time, much of the budget increases are due to "investment costs." The U.S. may not be building a permanent base, but it seems to be spending as if Iraq is a long-term commitment.

The looming costs and growing dissatisfaction surrounding the war make communication from the White House imperative.

Steps should be taken with clear benchmarks established that allow Iraqis to increasingly take control of their fledgling democracy. All that must also be balanced with the need for stability in Iraq and the region.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To see the report online go to http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf