Flashpoints

US military budget request for Afghanistan lowest in a decade

With a $14 billion dollar budget request for fiscal year 2021, the U.S. military is set to spend its lowest amount on the 18-year long war in Afghanistan in nearly a decade.

The overseas contingency operations, or OCO, funding request for Operation Freedom Sentinel was detailed in the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2021 request released on Monday.

The Defense Department detailed that the OCO budget request for Afghanistan “assumes a drawdown of forces."

The U.S and Taliban are amid peace talks to end the conflict, but negotiations have appeared to bog down over definitions of a potential cease-fire or reduction of violence.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has said the Pentagon is considering reducing the American footprint in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 8,600 troops with or without a deal.

But depending on conditions on the ground and the results of the peace talks the FY21 request for Afghanistan could see an increase in its funding request.

“The Department will work with Congress on any budget adjustments as decisions are finalized,” the budget request reads.

In FY20, the U.S. military spent $17 billion on the dual Afghan train and advise and counterterror missions in Afghanistan, according to the OCO request.

Overseas operations funding for Afghanistan has generally trended downward since 2011.

In 2011, the U.S. spent $114 billion on OCO funds for the Afghan conflict, according to the OCO request.

Between 2010 and 2011, the U.S. had nearly 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground as part of President Barack Obama’s troop surge to clear Taliban militants.

The Afghan conflict appears to still be in a stalemate with Taliban forces unable to capture major population centers and Afghan forces struggling to hold sway over rural farmlands and countryside.

A December 2019 DoD report on Afghanistan detailed that sustained operations and high casualties among Afghan security forces was outpacing recruitment and retention.

But the Taliban have yet to achieve war goals of sacking a major provincial capital. As the U.S. and Taliban slog through never ending peace talks, violence has rocketed as combative sides jockey for leverage in the talks.

In 2019, the U.S. released more than 7,000 munitions — the highest total in nearly a decade. Since 2018, U.S. warplanes have released nearly 15,000 munitions.

For the last two years, U.S. military officials have ramped up operations and bombing of Taliban positions to force the militant group into a settled negotiation.

While the U.S. continues to train and equip Afghan forces, it is seeking to drastically cut some support. A recent DoD report noted that the U.S. was planning to make steep cuts to the UH-60 Black Hawk program.

According to the report, Afghan forces are now slated to only field 53 Black Hawks — down from 159 UH-60s originally planned in 2016.

The Black Hawks are intended to replace Afghanistan’s aging Russian Mi-17 helicopters. The U.S. military says it plans to replace Afghanistan’s elite Special Mission Wing’s Mi-17s with an undisclosed number of CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

The U.S. military is requesting an overall OCO funding request of $69 billion for FY21 — roughly $3 billion less than FY20.

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