Washington: The United States expects to spend about USD 6 billion a year for training and supporting Afghan troops and police after it begins pulling out its own combat troops in 2011, a news agency has learned.
The previously undisclosed estimates of US spending through 2015 detailed in a NATO training mission document are an acknowledgment that Afghanistan will remain largely dependent on the United States for its security.
That reality could become problematic for the Obama administration as it continues to seek funding for Afghanistan from Congress at a time of increasingly tight budgets.
The estimates were included in a NATO training mission document reviewed by the agency. It outlines large scale infrastructure projects including a military hospital and academies for the military and police aimed at "establishing enduring institutions" and "creating irreversible momentum”.
Spending for training is projected to taper off from USD 11.6 billion next year to an average of USD 6.2 billion over the following four years. Much of the reduction reflects reduced spending on infrastructure.
The administration recently announced that it intends to ramp up the total Afghan Army and police force from nearly 250,000 today to more than 300,000 by late next year under a mission that is largely funded by the United States with smaller contributions from NATO allies.
The projected multibillion dollar costs of maintaining those forces would be inconceivable for Afghanistan`s small economy without foreign aid.
One of the counter-arguments to dramatically increasing the size of Afghan security forces, even during the George W Bush administration, was that the Afghan government would be unable to pay for them for the foreseeable future.
The NATO document shows that the US will end up footing most of the bill.
The Obama administration has boosted the training mission in preparation for next year`s drawdown. The United States spent over USD 20 billion on training between 2003 and 2009 and expects to spend about the same this year and next alone.
The head of the NATO training mission, US Lt Gen Bill Caldwell, says that bolstering Afghanistan`s security forces is cost efficient.
"It will always be more expensive to have a coalition force doing something than an Afghan counterpart," Caldwell said in a written response to questions from the agency.
Caldwell said that he is sensitive to the concern that the US is creating dependence and is looking for ways of cutting costs.