$80 billion more for Iraq, Afghan wars to be sought
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:51 p.m.
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration plans to announce today it will request about $80 billion more for this year's costs of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional aides said Monday.
The request would push the total provided so far for those wars and for U.S. efforts against terrorism elsewhere in the world to more than $280 billion since the first money was provided shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
That would be nearly half the $613 billion the United States spent for World War I or the $623 billion it expended for the Vietnam War, when the costs of those conflicts are translated into 2005 dollars.
White House officials refused to comment on the war spending package, which will be presented as the United States confronts a new string of violence in Iraq as that country's Jan. 30 elections approach.
The forthcoming request underscored how the war spending has clearly exceeded initial White House estimates. Early on, then-presidential economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey placed Iraq costs at $100 billion to $200 billion, only to see his comments derided by administration colleagues.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday it was Congress' "highest responsibility" to provide the money that American troops need. But in a written statement, she said Democrats would ask questions about Bush's policies there.
"What are the goals in Iraq, and how much more money will it cost to achieve them? Why hasn't the president and the Pentagon provided members of Congress a full accounting of previous expenditures?," Pelosi added.
She also said she wanted to know why Iraqi troops aren't playing a larger role in security there.
The package will not formally be sent to Congress until after President Bush introduces his 2006 budget on Feb. 7, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They said White House budget chief Joshua Bolten or other administration officials would describe the spending request publicly today.
Until now, the White House had not been expected to reveal details of the war package until after the budget's release.
The decision to do so earlier comes after congressional officials argued to the administration that withholding the war costs from Bush's budget would open the budget to criticism that it was an unrealistic document, one aide said. Last year, the spending plan omitted war expenditures and received just that critique.
Adding additional pressure, the Congressional Budget Office planned to release a semi-annual report on the budget today that was expected to include a projection of war costs. Last September, the nonpartisan budget office projected the 10-year costs of the wars at $1.4 trillion at current levels of operations, and $1 trillion if the wars were gradually phased down.
Aides said about three-fourths of the $80 billion was expected to be for the Army, which is bearing the brunt of the fighting in Iraq. It also was expected to include money for building a U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which has been estimated to cost $1.5 billion.
One aide said the request will also include funds to help the new Afghan government combat drug trafficking. It might also have money to help two new leaders the U.S. hopes will be allies, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko.
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