In his speech tonight announcing that the U.S. will withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer, President Obama cited the financial burden of ten years of war there as part of his reasoning for beginning to end the war:
OBAMA: Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource — our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach. America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.
Obama said in his speech that “tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.” Indeed, Obama’s order to pull out 33,000 troops by the end of next summer appears to be just the beginning. A senior Obama administration official said today that this is just an initial drawdown, adding that “we will be continuing reductions in U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond next summer, as a part of the process of transition to Afghan lead that has already begun and that will be complete by 2014.”
So one take away from the president’s speech is that tonight may mark the beginning of the end. And Obama is correct. The cost has been great: Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent $1.2 trillion so far on war and domestic security, and perhaps well over $2 trillion by 2021.