If there's been one most frequently-asked question for me since I've returned from a week-long trip to Afghanistan, it's been, "Did you get a chance to talk with many Afghanistan residents?"
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is "no." I was mainly on American military bases during my visit and the only Afghanis I met were interpreters or others who were working for the Americans.
In other words, I can't say what the Afghan public thinks about the war in Afghanistan.
For that matter, I don't have any opinion about whether the war in Afghanistan is a good idea or a bad idea, only any opinion that our soldiers in Afghanistan ought to be thanked for the job they are doing.
But I do have one insight to share with you. It's obvious to anyone who visits Afghanistan that we are spending huge amounts of money on the war there.
Every single item used as part of the war effort appears to have been flown in to Afghanistan for what I can only assume was a huge cost. Everywhere I looked I saw cases of bottled water for the soldiers to use. The bottled water is important, of course--but hardly cheap.
Likewise the building materials used at all the American bases also had to be flown in. That means plywood and 2 x 4s and nails and...
The most expensive cost might be the salaries of civilian contractors to help in the war effort. I thought I might be the only civilian at the military bases, but that was far from the case. Private security guards, computer consultants, food service operators--they were all in Afghanistan in large numbers.
There are 140,000 coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. However, there are also another 100,000 civilian contractors. And the contractors and soldiers I talked with agreed on one thing--the contractors are getting paid three to four times the salaries of the soldiers.
So while there are 140,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the war's cost in salaries is more like having 500,000 soldiers.
There's been a lot of discussion in the United States about our budget deficit. But there's been next to no discussion about how the cost of the war in Afghanistan is a major cause of that deficit.
Our politicians have decided to pay for the costs of the war in Afghanistan by borrowing money. Republicans say the money is well spent--but they call for cutting taxes. Democrats call for increasing taxes--but decreasing defense spending.
My take on the war in Afghanistan is that if we believe that it is a good idea, we should be willing to support increased taxes to pay for it. On the other hand, if we oppose the war and want to end spending on it, we certainly should not be calling for higher taxes.
As is it now, we are spending huge amounts of money in Afghanistan--but pretending that we aren't.