Adelaide Now, January 18, 2012
Afghan war bill hits 7.4bn USD - and rising
In its Budget forward estimates the Government only costed Afghanistan at 299 million USD for 2012-13, but the true cost will be at least 1.2 billion plus USD
By Ian McPhedran
Taxpayers will be hit with another $1 billion-plus bill to fund the war in Afghanistan next year as the Government struggles to conjure up a surplus in its May Budget.
The cost of war hit $1.6 billion for last financial year or more than $1 million each for the 1550 Diggers on the ground.
By June 2013 the overall outlay for the Afghanistan campaign will reach more than $7.4 billion including $1 billion for enhanced protection measures to better protect soldiers from roadside bombs and rocket attacks.
In its Budget forward estimates the Government only costed Afghanistan at $299 million for 2012-13, but the true cost will be at least $1.2 billion plus another $200 million in budgeted force protection costs.
The cost of the war in Afghanistan hit $1.6bn in 2011-12. That's more than $1m each for the 1550 Diggers on the ground.
In addition the Government is halfway through a five-year $200 million program of donations to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund. That money is being used to "develop and sustain" the Afghan National Army and to pay for things such as barracks, training, secure phones and video teleconferencing facilities.
"Australia's contribution has also been used to assist the installation of the Afghan National Defence University's Information Technology infrastructure ... used by the Afghan National Army including academic and staff offices, classrooms, laboratories and student barracks," Defence said.
Community opposition to the decade-long war is growing and experts are at a loss to explain why increasing community angst has not been translated into direct anti-war protests.
Australian forces are due out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but senior officers have hinted the withdrawal could be completed by late 2013 possibly saving taxpayers more than $1 billion.
Defence expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Andrew Davies said polling on Afghanistan was worse than the Vietnam War, but it didn't translate into action.
"It is much smaller than Vietnam so there is not the same level of public outrage, it is a long way away and it is not on our TV screens every night," Dr Davies said.
Budget expert at ASPI Mark Thomson said the cost was not a big issue as people were more concerned about the lives of Australian soldiers than with money.
"What is interesting is that the Government will need to find another $1 billion for the war in 2013 when they are due to deliver a surplus," he said.
"This will mean more belt-tightening in the May Budget and especially in Defence."
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