Washington The latest estimate of the growing costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the worldwide battle against terrorism - nearly $15 billion a month - came last week from one of the Senate's leading proponents of a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.
"This cost of this war is approaching $15 billion a month, with the Army spending $4.2 billion of that every month," Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, said in a little-noticed floor speech Dec. 18. His remarks came in support of adding $70 billion to the omnibus fiscal 2008 spending legislation to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as counterterrorism activities, for the six months from Oct. 1, 2007, through March 31 of next year.
While most of the public focus has been on the political fight over troop levels, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported this month that the Bush administration's request for the 2008 fiscal year of $189.3 billion for Defense Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and worldwide counterterrorism activities was 20 percent higher than for fiscal 2007 and 60 percent higher than for fiscal 2006.
Pentagon spokesmen would not comment last week on Stevens' figure but said their latest estimate for monthly spending for Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terrorism was $11.7 billion as of Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2007.
One reason for Stevens' larger cost figure may be that U.S. troop levels in Iraq peaked at 180,000 in November, which is part of the 2008 fiscal year, and will fall only slightly in the next three months.