Afghanistan war has cost Britain more than £37bn, new book claims

Richard Norton-Taylor, “Afghanistan war has cost Britain more than £37bn, new book claims,” The Guardian, 30 May 2013

Frank Ledwidge, author of damning study Investment in Blood, says failing, bloody campaign has cost £2,000 per UK household.

The war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £37bn and the figure will rise to a sum equivalent to more than £2,000 for every taxpaying household, according to a devastating critique of the UK’s role in the conflict.

Since 2006, on a conservative estimate, it has cost £15m a day to maintain Britain’s military presence in Helmand province. The equivalent of £25,000 will have been spent for every one of Helmand’s 1.5 million inhabitants, more than most of them will earn in a lifetime, it says.

By 2020, the author of a new book says, Britain will have spent at least £40bn on its Afghan campaign, enough to recruit over 5,000 police officers or nurses and pay for them throughout their careers. It could fund free tuition for all students in British higher education for 10 years.

The MoD has estimated the cost so far of conducting military operations in Afghanistan to be about £25bn. MoD officials said on Wednesday that British troops were in Helmand to protect British national security by helping Afghans build up their own security forces.

The ministry does not keep figures on civilian casualties and has told the Commons defence committee that it cannot provide a figure for the “total” cost of operations in Afghanistan.

Ledwidge told the Guardian: “Once the last British helicopter leaves a deserted and wrecked Camp Bastion, Helmand – to which Britain claimed it would bring ‘good governance’ – will be a fractious narco-state occasionally fought over by opium barons and their cronies.”

He added: “There are no new lessons here, only one rather important old precept: before you engage in a war, understand the environment you are going into, precisely and realistically what it is you are trying to achieve and will it be worth the cost? In other words have a strategy.”

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