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Obama allocates more war funds for Afghanistan than Iraq

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WASHINGTON: U.S. President Barack Obama allocated more war funds for Afghanistan than those earmarked for Iraq in a budget plan he unveiled. The president proposed 130 billion U.S. dollars in appropriation to support overseas military operations in fiscal year 2010 that begins Oct. 1, including 65 billion dollars for Afghanistan and 61 billion dollars for Iraq, according to his budget plan released by the White House.

It marks the first time that war spending for Afghanistan overtook those for Iraq and is in accordance with the new administration’s ongoing shift of war focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. Steve Stanley, the director of force structure, resources and assessment on the Joint Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that the budget request represents “where you’re going to first see the swing of not only dollars or resources, but combat capability” from Iraq to Afghanistan.

“The money requested here — about 65 billion dollars for Afghanistan — actually exceeds the 61 billion dollars that we’re requesting for Iraq,”So that’s the first time in our war costs request,” the official added.

Stanley explained that those numbers are based on keeping between 50,000 to 100,000 troops in Iraq and 68,000 in Afghanistan. In Iraq, U.S. troop levels are supposed to come down gradually over the next year, and these numbers are based on plans to bring troop levels down to around 50,000 by the end of the fiscal year 2010, which is Sept. 30 next year, according to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, troop levels will grow to 68,000 later this year after all the additional troops Obama planned to send there are in position. In addition to pay for an increase of troops, war funds allocated for Afghanistan will pay for new equipment, like the scaled-down version of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected truck that will be customized for the primitive roads of Afghanistan.

However, Pentagon official cautioned that these figures are just projections based on certain assumptions about how the wars will progress in the year to come. Overall, the total war funding under the name of “Overseas Contingency Operations” budget plan represented a 10-percent decline from the war funding for this fiscal year, which is 145 billion dollars.

This budget plan also marks the first time that the war funding is included in the overall defense budget, a departure with the practices of the Bush administration, which paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan largely through emergency supplemental appropriations. That practice worried lawmakers and budget watchdogs, who argued that the practice limited oversight and encouraged profligate spending. NNI

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