President Trump’s proposed troop drawdown in Syria and Afghanistan won’t save much money, and it could end up costing the U.S. more, says Rick Berger of the American Enterprise Institute, writing at Defense One Tuesday.
Withdrawing thousands of troops won’t cut the fixed costs of maintaining a presence in the two countries, Berger says, with the cost of “basing, security, communications facilities, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance missions” claiming a substantial majority of the $69 billion warfighting budget. “No matter the number of airstrikes, the military needs wide-ranging infrastructure to conduct any airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan,” Berger writes.
In addition, the modest savings created by troop withdrawals could be wiped out as military leaders turn to more expensive aerial reconnaissance to replace on-the-ground intelligence gathering and airstrikes to replace combat units. On top of the that, more than 1,000 Islamic State detainees may have to be moved to Guantanamo Bay. And the withdrawals could result in military reversals on the ground that require new U.S. interventions, at considerable expense.
“At day’s end,” Berger says, “the president will pull troops out based on a number of calculations—a supposedly war-weary public, lack of conclusive wins, and frustrations with partner nations. But the one thing he won’t be able to credibly say is that these minor withdrawals will save much money.”