Senate approves $60 billion more for wars and aid — for just four months
The US Senate has passed a supplementary funding bill worth some 60 billion dollars to finance the conflict in Afghanistan and other key projects including aid to quake-hit Haiti.
The measure approved late Thursday by a 67-28 margin offers 33 billion dollars to fund President Barack Obama’s surge of 30,000 more troops into the Afghan conflict, announced in December.
The $60 billion figure covers just four months in the remaining US fiscal year. To be fair, it also includes funding for Haiti and FEMA, though the bulk of the package is directed toward the US war in Afghanistan.
The House version of the bill is even larger, at $84 billion. Less than $100 million is earmarked for helping the Gulf Coast in the wake of a massive oil spill.
Meanwhile, the US war in the Afghan theater has now claimed the lives over 1,000 US servicemembers — which, of course, doesn’t include civilian casualties.
“According to the Pentagon, 1,000 service members have been killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since combat operations began in the region nearly nine years ago. This includes 15 service members killed in Pakistan and one in Uzbekistan,” ABC reported Friday.
“Total war costs this year would be more than the annual total in all but two years of former President George W. BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s administration,” Bloomberg News notes. “War costs peaked at $187 billion in 2008 amid the troop surge in Iraq. The total dating to the beginnings of the two conflicts would reach $1.1 trillion.”
The US has about 94,000 servicemembers on the ground in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers also passed an economic and military aid package worth a total of 349 million dollars for Pakistan, a key ally for Washington in the conflict that is facing its own threats from extremists. About $14 billion was allocated for supporting veterans who suffered at the hands of Agent Orange.
For Haiti, the 2.8-billion-dollar package, including 913 million dollars in economic aid, is destined to support the impoverished Caribbean nation that remains in desperate straits after the January earthquake, which left more than 1.3 million people homeless and claimed up to 300,000 lives.
In the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, senators approved an amendment from Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu to expedite coastal development projects that are already in the works.
Amid warnings that 2010 could bring one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, the bill also provided 5.1 billion dollars to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is responsible for managing the response to natural disasters.
The war in Afghanistan is expensive. According to a recent estimate, the US pays as much as $400 per gallon for gasoline in the landlocked nation when the cost of flying it in to fuel US vehicles is all accounted for. The cost of maintaining each US soldier in the theater, per year, is about $1 million.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The American people deserve an answer to the question: How much longer?Ã¢â‚¬Â Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold was quoted as saying. The funding bill Ã¢â‚¬Å“will add some $30 billion more to the almost $300 billion weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already spent in Afghanistan with no end in sight,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
The House of Representatives must still adopt its own version of the bill, and the two texts must be merged before being sent to Obama for his signature.
Lawmakers in the lower chamber are expected to take up the measure late next week.