Big war spending continues under Obama

Big war spending continues under Obama
# 02 February 2010 04:42 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. President Barack Obama on Monday proposed another two years of hefty spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, seeking Congress’ approval for about $160 billion this year and again in fiscal 2011 to pay war costs, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The war spending proposed by Obama is only slightly less than in each of the last two years of the administration of President George Bush and carries considerable political peril for the Democratic president who took office last year.
Obama campaigned for the White House vowing to end the Iraq war. His party has a large anti-war contingent that is wary of spending more money on the battlefield, and some of its leaders said they would carefully review the military budget.
U.S. troops are to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, but Obama is seeking to escalate the U.S. presence in Afghanistan to step up the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Obama announced in December he was adding 30,000 more U.S. troops to the Afghan war effort to join the 68,000 already fighting a resurgent Taliban. He hopes to start bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in the middle of 2011.
To pay for the surge in Afghanistan, Obama on Monday asked for an additional $33 billion in the current 2010 fiscal year, on top of about $130 billion that Congress has already approved for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars through September 30, 2010.
Pentagon chief Robert Gates said he would be asking Congress to approve this additional money soon to finance the new troop deployment in Afghanistan.
"I will be asking the Congress to enact the supplemental by spring," Gates told reporters.
Obama’s proposed budget will also include a request for $159.3 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for the 2011 fiscal year that begins on October 1.
The peak for war funding in recent years was fiscal year 2008, Bush’s last year in office, when spending on war operations reached $185 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service. This was slightly more than the appropriations in fiscal 2007, which were $171 billion.
The Iraq war has been more costly that the Afghan war that began after the September 11 attacks on the United States. In the 2010 budget, for the first time more money has been allocated to Afghanistan than Iraq, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan budget research group.
The budget also includes a "placeholder" estimate of $50 billion for the year 2012 and beyond. But the administration’s budget documents noted that these estimates do not reflect any policy decisions about specific military or intelligence operations. Those decisions are yet to come.
While Obama said he planned to freeze many government domestic programs for three years, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated her view that the Pentagon should not be exempt from such measures.
"I look forward to examining the president’s proposal to freeze spending and believe waste can be found in all departments and agencies -- including the Defense Department," she said.
Representative Dave Obey, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said he would not exclude any department from review. "None of them are without waste." Obey last year said that if Obama wanted to continue spending so much money on war he should levy a "war surtax" to pay for it.
The budget includes a proposal for sharply more funding to help Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan arm, train and equip its military in the fight against extremists. Obama asks for an increase in the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund from $700 million in fiscal 2009 to $1.2 billion next year.
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