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What Obama's Afghan war plan will cost you

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Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

(Read caption) The Afghan war cost will total $1 million a year for each new American soldier -- double that, if replacing equipment like helicopters and other long-term costs are factored in.

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How much will the troop escalation in Afghanistan cost you?

A pretty penny. President Obama said Tuesday night it would cost $30 billion this fiscal year -- or about $1 million per soldier -- to send 30,000 additional troops there. That's a low estimate, budget experts say, but let's run with it for the moment. An extra $30 billion in Afghanistan means that in 2010 alone, US military spending in Afghanistan will equal nearly half of total spending on the war since 2001, according to Travis Sharp, military policy analyst with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington. The troop increase will cost $2.5 billion per month, $82 million per day, $3.4 million per hour, $57,000 per minute, and $951 per second.

It's a direct tax on Americans: about $195 for each taxpayer next year.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Even after wars wind down, charges continue to accrue.

"The total cost of [the escalation in] Afghanistan will be at least twice the cost and perhaps three times the cost of the estimate, says Linda Bilmes, a budget and public-finance expert at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. When she counts replacement of worn-out military equipment, disability payments to soldiers, Veterans Administration medical care, and the interest charges to finance the war, the tab doubles. When she adds indirect costs to the economy -- say, the lost wages of a parent who quits his job to care for a son wounded in combat -- it triples.

"We know that those are a decades-long costs," says professor Bilmes. "The next question is: How do we budget for it? And how do we pay for it?"

A war tax, war bonds, and budget cuts have all been proposed, although it looks as though the administration will just keep on borrowing. In whatever form it comes, the real costs for the individual taxpayer could peak anywhere from $400 to $600 annually for the next couple of years and then begin to tail off — assuming all goes well in Afghanistan.
-- What do you think of the cost projections? Let us know on Twitter.

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