The last U.S. combat forces were withdrawn from Iraq on Dec. 15, 2011. And this past week at the NATO summit in Chicago, member nations endorsed President Obama’s plan to remove most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Yet the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and the winding down of military operations in Afghanistan does not mean the end of the U.S. presence or war-related funding. U.S. taxpayers will continue to provide funding for Iraq and Afghanistan for years into the future. The Defense Department will continue to provide weapons and training to their national security forces. The Pentagon will likely invest billions of dollars to repair and replace weapons and supplies depleted by military operations. And the Department of State will play an increasing role, taking on functions formerly performed by the Defense Department (DoD).
In fact, this is already happening. According to the State Department’s fiscal year 2012 budget request, "by the beginning of FY 2012, much of the work previously done by our military in Iraq will have become the responsibility of State and [the U.S. Agency for International Development and] a similar shift will take place in Afghanistan."
The State Department’s FY2013 budget request shows the expanding role that State is playing in day-to-day operations in Iraq. "...With the departure of U.S. troops at the end of 2011, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has become the foundation for all U.S. programs and efforts in Iraq. The diplomatic mission has also assumed responsibility for numerous essential activities previously performed by DOD, ranging from providing airlift to protecting civilian personnel..."
The State Department has even created its own accounting for its war-related activities, based on DoD’s model. "Borrowing terminology used by our colleagues at the Defense Department, we have identified these costs as Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO.”
OCO in the State Department budget for FY2012 is $11.2 billion, and it’s projected at $8.2 billion in fiscal 2013.
NPP will continue to analyze funding for Iraq and Afghanistan for as long as U.S. taxpayers are asked to support the direct and indirect costs of these wars.