Here are two stories that should be blended into one:
Story 1, from the New York Times:
The Afghan government and its international partners are set to approve a plan that would expand the nation’s army and police forces to up to 378,000 personnel by October 2012, a 42 percent increase over the current level, Western and Afghan officials say.
The plan, which is pending, reflects growing confidence in a training mission that for years has been hobbled by illiteracy, drug use, corruption and high desertion and resignation rates among the Afghan security forces. At one point in 2009, more Afghan soldiers were abandoning the army than joining it.
Many of those problems remain ....
But who cares? Not Uncle Sucker, who pays literally 95 percent of the cost.
And the cost? First, here's what we're buying:
Increasing the size and professionalism of the Afghan security forces is a pillar of the Obama administration’s plans to scale down the United States’ combat operations here over the next four years.
"Pillar" has such a nice structural sound -- but "crack-pot notion" is the more accurate term.
The administration cited the growth and improved training and effectiveness of the security forces in its December strategy review, which reported that the United States was on target to begin reducing its military presence in July.
"On target" for a misfire.
But the planned increase will mean billions more in spending to train and maintain the security forces, and 95 percent of that cost is borne by the United States.
Between 2003 and 2009, the United States spent $20 billion to finance the Afghan Army and police.
A growing force, pay increases that were intended to retain soldiers and police officers, and the costs of improved training and equipment drove the total to $9 billion in 2010, and $11.6 billion is budgeted for this year.
How about next year? And the year after that? And when does it stop? And these figures have nothing to do with the $350 million dollars a day the US military is spending in Afghanistan just to get up every day. And forget about replenishing Uncle Sam's bashed and battered military hardware. Meanwhile, the training mission gives itself a gold star when Afghan recruits acquire first-grade-level reading and math skills. These should come in handy when recruits receive their first drone how-to manuals.
Story 2, from the AP:
The United States just passed a dubious milestone: Government debt surged to an all-time high, passing $14 trillion - $45,300 for every person in the country.
That means Congress soon will have to lift the legal debt ceiling to give the almost maxed-out government an even higher credit limit or dramatically cut spending to stay under the current cap. Either way, a fight is ahead on Capitol Hill, inflamed by the passions of tea party activists and deficit hawks.
Somebody, quick, ask the Afghan army recruits what's wrong with this picture: debt ceiling goes up while money goes down the drain.
First-grade-level reading and math skills should be adequate to figure it all out. But is it beyond the green-eye-shade Poindexters on Capitol Hill?