TomDispatch.com has posted a mind-boggling compilation of facts and figures to wrap our despondent heads around. I strongly encourage people to check out Tom Engelhardt's article in full, but below I've pulled some of statistics that I find insightful, as we figure out a proper course of action in Afghanistan. Most of the stats have links to them, and the ones I find particularly egregious have been highlighted in bold.
Annual funding for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, 2002: $20.8 billion.
Annual funding for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, 2009: $60.2 billion.
Total funds for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, 2002-2009: $228.2 billion.
War-fighting funds requested by the Obama administration for 2010: $68 billion (a figure which will, for the first time since 2003, exceed funds requested for Iraq).
Funds spent since 2001 on Afghan "reconstruction": $38 billion ("more than half of it on training and equipping Afghan security forces").
Afghan gross national product: $23 billion ("the size of Boise" Idaho's, writes columnist George Will) -- about $3 billion of it from opium production.
Annual budget of the Afghan government: $600 million.
Maintenance cost for the force of 450,000 Afghan soldiers and police U.S. generals dream of creating: approximately 500% of the Afghan budget.
Number of American troops killed in Afghanistan, 2001: 12.
Number of American troops killed in Afghanistan, 2009 (through September 7th): 186
Total number of coalition (NATO and American) deaths in 2009 thus far: 311, making this the deadliest year for those forces since the war began.
Two worst months of the Afghan War in terms of coalition deaths: July (71) and August (74) 2009.
U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, 2002: 5,200.
Expected U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, December 2009: 68,000.
Percentage increase in overall Taliban attacks in the first five months of 2009 (compared to the same period in 2008): 59%.
Number of gallons of fuel per day used by the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan: 800,000.
Cost of a single gallon of gas delivered to the Afghan war zone on long, cumbersome, and dangerously embattled supply lines: Up to $100.
Number of American bombs dropped in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2009: 2,011 (a fall of 24% from the previous year, thanks evidently to a directive from U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan, Stanley A. McChrystal, limiting air attacks when civilians might be present).
Number of Afghan civilian deaths recorded by the U.N. January-July 2009: 1,013, a rise of 24% from the same period in 2008. (Unfortunately, Afghan deaths are generally covered sparingly, on an incident by incident basis, as in the deaths of an Afghan family traveling to a wedding party in August, assumedly due to a Taliban-planted IED, or the recent controversial U.S. bombing of two stolen oil tankers in Kunduz Province in which many civilians seem to have died. Anything like the total number of Afghans killed in these years remains unknown, but what numbers we have are undoubtedly undercounts.)
Number of additional troops General McChrystal is expected to recommend that President Obama send to Afghanistan in the coming months: 21,000 to 45,000, according to the McClatchy Newspapers; 10,000 to 15,000 ("described as a high-risk option"), 25,000 ("a medium-risk option"), 45,000 ("a low-risk option"), according to the New York Times; fewer than 10,000, according to the Associated Press.
Number of support troops Defense Department officials are planning to replace with "trigger-pullers" (combat troops) in the coming months, effectively an escalation in place: 6,000-14,000. ("The changes will not offset the potential need for additional troops in the future, but could reduce the size of any request... officials said.")
Number of additional NATO forces General McChrystal will reportedly ask for: 20,000.
Optimal number of additional Afghan National Army (ANA) troops to be trained by 2012, according to reports on General McChrystal's draft plan: 162,000. (According to Naval Postgraduate School professor Thomas H. Johnson and retired Foreign Service officer M. Chris Mason,"[T]he U.S. military touts 91,000 ANA soldiers as 'trained and equipped,' knowing full well that barely 39,000 are still in the ranks and present for duty.")
Public OpinionSupport for increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan is now at just 25%, down 14% from April.
Percentage of British who feel their forces should be withdrawn from Afghanistan: 59%.
Percentage of Germans opposed to that country's 4,000 troop commitment to Afghanistan: More than 70%.
The Presidential Election
Number of ballots cast at the Hajji Janat Gul High School polling place, half an hour from the center of Kabul: 600.
Number of votes recorded for Karzai at that polling station: 996. (Number of votes for other candidates: 5.)
Number of ballots marked for Karzai and shipped to Kabul from 45 polling sites in Shorabak District in Southern Afghanistan that were shut down by local officials connected to Karzai before voting could begin: 23,900.
Number of fake polling sites set up by backers of Karzai where no one voted but hundreds of thousands of votes were recorded: as many as 800, according to the New York Times. (Another 800 actual polling sites were taken over by Karzai supporters "to fraudulently report tens of thousands of additional ballots for Mr. Karzai.")
Number of ballots in Karzai's home province, Kandahar, where an estimated 25,000 Afghans actually voted, submitted to be counted: approximately 350,000.
Percentage of the Pentagon's force in Afghanistan made up of contractors in March 2009: 57%.
Ranking for the percentage of contractors used by the Pentagon in Afghanistan: highest in any conflict in U.S. history.
Cost of the State Department's five-year contract with Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to provide security for U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan: $210 million.
Cost of the State Department's contract with ArmorGroup North America, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Wackenhutt Services Inc., to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul: $189 million.
The Metrics of Success
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on success in Afghanistan: It will take "a few years" to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
Admiral "Mike" Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Meet the Press: "I believe we've got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months." (He would not directly answer the "how long" question.)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on the Afghan War: "None of the civilian officials or military officers interviewed in Afghanistan and elsewhere expected substantial progress in the short term. They talked in terms of years two, five and 10... Military officials believe the Afghanistan mission can only succeed if troops are there far longer -- anywhere from five years to 12 years."
Military experts cited by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post warn: "[T]he United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war."
New chief of staff of the British Army, General Sir David Richards: "The Army's role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years." (After much criticism, he retracted the statement.)
Afghanistan by the Numbers
Cost of a kilo of heroin in Afghanistan: $2,500. (Cost of that same kilo in Moscow: an estimated $100,000.)
Cost in police bribes of getting contraband into or out of Afghanistan: "$20 on each weapon, $100 for a kilo of heroin and $1,000 for each thousand kilos of hashish."
Afghanistan's ranking among the globe's "weakest states," according to the Brookings Institution: second weakest. (It is also regularly referred to as the world's fourth poorest country.)
Unemployment rate in Afghanistan, according to the CIA World Factbook: 40% (2008 figures).
Monthly wage for Afghan National Police: $110 (less than $4 per day).
Number of registered Afghan refugees still in Iran and Pakistan: 3 million.
The Next War
The price tag the Obama administration's budget team reportedly put on U.S. future wars almost every year through 2019: More than $100 billion a year.