As part of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Afghanistan, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.) asked three top officials two simple questions: How many Americans have died in Afghanistan this year? And how much is the war costing the U.S.?
Awkward excuses and befuddled silence greeted him in return.
“We’re supposed to believe that you fellas have a plan that’s going to end up in a positive way in Afghanistan?” Rohrabacher asked. “Holy cow!”
The unanswered questions, which you can watch at the Wall Street Journal, speaks volumes about the debacle that is rapidly becoming America’s foray into impending retreat from Afghanistan.
The culprits were Ambassador James Dobbins, the administration’s top envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Michael Dumont, the Defence Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, and Donald “Larry” Sampler, the assistant to the administrator in USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs.
The answers: 113 this year, 2,292 total, and somewhere around $85 billion for 2013. (A cursory Google search yields these answers from various official sources.)
Dion Nissenbaum of the Journal writes almost caustically:
The idea that U.S. officials didn’t have basic facts about the war in Afghanistan on the tips of their tongues seemed apt for a conflict that has fallen off the radar in Washington, where battles over the budget, President Barack Obama‘s health care program and talks with Iran have eclipsed interest in America’s longest war as it winds to a close.
The only seemingly responsible political element in Afghanistan is the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), and they’re on the chopping block.
Foreign Policy’s Dan Lamothe starts off his profile of SIGAR chief John Sopko:
Since former prosecutor John Sopko took over last year as the top watchdog probing U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the organisation has honed a pugnacious style that has irked military commanders, grabbed national news headlines and exposed embarrassing lapses in oversight that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
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