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US forces have struggled in Afghanistan's mountainous terrain, where getting supplies and munitions has been a complex logistical exercise. Then came the ill-fated "surge" strategy, which put 30,000 more US troops on the ground with little if any military gain. There were 3,000 attacks on US and allied forces in 2012 - a figure little changed from 2009, when President Barack Obama's administration decided on the change in strategy. The surge itself was expensive. But the way we conducted the war unnecessarily increased its costs. For instance, the closure of the land route through Pakistan for eight months in reprisal for a US drone attack in November 2011 that inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers added billions to the transport bill. Another $90bn has been devoted to "reconstruction" aid in Afghanistan - the largest amount spent by the US since the Marshall plan, with little to show for it. Endemic corruption among local contractors and officials has drained money from the budget.


Stiglitz, Joseph, and Linda J. Bilmes. "There Will Be No Peace Dividend After Afghanistan." Financial Times, January 24, 2013.