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Cash flow and comparisons
Posted by on March 1st, 2010

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By Dave Anderson:

The NFL draft combine is this weekend.  The top pick will get a contract with an average value in excess of $12 million dollars per year.  Even with a good accountant, that player will owe over $2.5 million dollars for income taxes in his first year. 

The basic building block of a US Army infantry unit is the fire team.  A fire team is four guys with a light machine gun, a rifle mounted grenade launcher and two rifles.  Those four guys cost about $4 million dollars to deploy in Afghanistan for a year. 

Marjah was a major logisitcal and support nexus for the Afghani Taliban.  It was a major fundraising center for anti-government militants as they offered protection for local opium production and received a cut on the sale of opium to smugglers and distributors.  Stratfor has the details of the size and importance of Marjah in Taliban cash flow: [h/t Fabius Maximus]

 Helmand alone produces more heroin than any country on the planet, and Marjah is at the center of that trade. By some estimates, this center alone supplies the Taliban with a monthly income of $200,000.

Marjah was estimated to generate less cash flow on an annual basis than the cost of maintaining a US infantry fire team in Iraq or the annual tax payments of an adequate quarterback (yes, I think the #1 pick will be Bradford).  And Marjah was supposed to be a major economic and fundraising center for the enemies of the US who theoretically pose a significant threat to the United States. 

This is an illustration of the 100:1 resource advantage that insurgencies have against the United States and other advanced, Western style militaries and it brings into question the ability of the US to identify interests and goal sets that justify the expense as I noted ten months ago:

the best projections have US forces in Afghanistan for most of a generation at several tens of billions of dollars per year. This is despite having two orders of magnitude of an advantage in dedicated funding sources.

This might be a good indicator that it is not a good idea to militarize every international problem as fighting a guerilla war can quickly make "winning" an absurd joke for the outsiders as any security gains are wiped out by economic costs.

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