Afghanistan: 30,000 troops, $30 billion a year

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNNMoney.com senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- War is expensive, and it's about to get more so as the U.S. government escalates its military efforts in Afghanistan.

President Obama announced Tuesday evening that he will send 30,000 more troops to the embattled country in the first half of 2010. Currently there are 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan, a senior administration official said in a briefing earlier in the day.

The question of how to pay for expanding their numbers - a cost estimated at $30 billion a year - will be a key point as lawmakers debate the president's decision in the coming days.

Over the past eight years, the roughly $1 trillion cost of the military's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan was essentially charged to the national credit card.

Will it be different this time?

There's some chance lawmakers may opt to pay the bill as it comes due, rather than letting the balance and interest accrue. It's not the first time the idea has come up, but it may be the first time the idea is given serious consideration.

A big part of the context for deciding whether and how to pay for a buildup are the growing deficits that have become a political and financial albatross. The country's accumulated debt is expected to rise from $12 trillion today to $21 trillion by the end of 2019.

Obama didn't detail how he would pay for the costs of expanding troops in Afghanistan. But he signaled that they wouldn't be left unpaid for.

"I am committed to addressing these costs openly and honestly. Our new approach in Afghanistan is likely to cost us roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I will work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit," the president said.

David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and other leading Democratic congressmen have proposed a graduated war surtax beginning in 2011 to pay for U.S. military efforts going forward. The amount of tax collected would have to be sufficient to cover the full war costs of the previous year.

The surtax would start at 1% for anyone with taxable income and increase gradually up the income scale to as much as 5% for the highest-income households.

The only people exempt from having to pay the war surtax would be members of the military who have served in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, their families and the families of military members who died in combat.

"Regardless of whether one favors the war or not, if it is to be fought, it ought to be paid for," Obey said in a statement. "The only people who've paid any price for our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are our military families."

Separately, Obey noted that if the cost of the Afghan war isn't paid for it will "wipe out every other initiative that we have to try to rebuild our own economy."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile, has acknowledged the issue is very much on the minds of legislators, but on Tuesday seemed to pour cold water on the idea of a surtax.

"I think the war has to be paid for. That may be one option, but I don't think that has a good prospect," she told CNN.

In the Senate, Armed Service Committee Carl Levin, D-Mich., told Bloomberg Television last month that he could support a war tax levied on those making more than $200,000.

Obama, however, did not say specifically what tax - if any - he might support to pay for future efforts in Afghanistan.

- CNN's Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,810.06 91.06 0.51%
Nasdaq 4,712.97 11.10 0.24%
S&P 500 2,063.50 10.75 0.52%
Treasuries 2.32 -0.02 -0.86%
Data as of 1:50pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.12 0.12 0.71%
Kinder Morgan Inc 39.75 -0.17 -0.43%
Apple Inc 116.47 0.16 0.14%
Intel Corp 35.59 -0.36 -1.00%
Microsoft Corp 47.98 -0.72 -1.48%
Data as of Nov 21

Sections

This arrangement, announced Friday, illustrates how the lines have blurred between traditional TV networks and newfangled options like Netflix. More

The Obama administration is touting that its immigration action will boost wages. But the hike amounts to only $170 a year by 2024. More

Regin is malware has been lurking in computers for as long as six years, according to Symantec. But experts don't know much about where it is from, what it does and who has been targeted. More

Obama doesn't have the authority to create a startup visa, but part of his reform announcement could include a workaround for entrepreneurs: 'parole status.' More

Nearly half of all Americans say there's a chance they'll have to work during a holiday between Thanksgiving and New Year's, according to a new poll. And one in four say they'll have to work whether they want to or not. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.