Conflict & Justice

Civilian experts in Afghanistan are costly: Report

The cost of sending U.S. civilian advisers to Afghanistan for is nearly $2 million, a report said Thursday.

The report, which uses data from an audit by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the offices of the State Department inspector general, states that these advisers and experts aren't really cheaper than sending soldiers into Afghanistan. Sending one of these experts costs the U.S. government between $410,000 and $570,000, reports the San Jose Mercury News.  

This puts a dollar amount on an important part of President Obama's strategy in Afghanistan; the civilians help with agriculture, economy, development projects, and training Afghani government officials, reports the San Jose Mercury News. 

The increase in civilian advisers was announced by President Obama in 2009 as part of his "smart power" strategy. The idea was to build on the military gains that the United States was making by improving the daily lives of the Afghani civilians. 

The numbers of U.S. civilian employees had since grown- from 320 in early 2009, to 1,040 in June of 2011 says the audit by SIGAR and the State Department.
The report comes at a critical time. U.S. and Afghan officials have begun a third round of talks at the State Department and White House to discuss an agreement that governs relations between the two countries after the pull out of the U.S. troops, which was announced by President Obama last June, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Moreover, with the United States' current budget woes, pressure in Congress to cut foreign aid programs has been building, reports MSNBC. 

The war in Afghanistan is costing the United States $110 billion this year; and the SIGAR report indicates that the transition to using U.S. civilians may not be cost-efficient either. Aid in Afghanistan has already been cut due to concerns about corruption within the country's government and according to the SIGAR report, the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will result in an increase in costs for the State Department, which will likely assume these functions.