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Afghan troops building costs soar

  |   Jan. 6, 2011 at 7:01 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- This year's cost to the United States and NATO to build Afghanistan's security forces is put at $11.6 billion, more than in any previous year, figures show.

Taken together with last year's cost, the two-year total would be nearly $20 billion, or about what was spent in all of the seven previous years, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

U.S. and NATO forces are under pressure to train Afghan forces to assume more of the fighting responsibility against the Taliban.

"It's an enormous undertaking that we do," Gen. William Caldwell, commander of NATO's Afghan training effort, told the Post.

The report said money has been expended to buy 24,000 Ford Rangers, 108,000 9mm pistols, 74,000 handheld radios, 44 helicopters and four bomb-sniffing robots.

The Post said NATO offered the details after criticism from Afghan officials that adequate weaponry has not been provided to Afghan troops and police.

"They (Afghans) want armor, tanks. We think it's an image thing," a U.S. military official told the Post, adding the West is already providing the Afghans the right kind of equipment to meet current needs.

The report said Caldwell and other NATO officials invited Afghan soldiers to a Kabul military post so reporters could see their guns and mortars. The general said not many may know or appreciate how much has been spent to build bases, infrastructure and on equipment, uniforms, training and education.

The number of Afghan military and police forces currently total 270,000, up 70,000 from earlier figures. Current plans call for the Afghan forces to assume combat responsibilities by 2014.

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