Top Armed Services Dem: Afghan war too costly to fight ‘forever’

The costs of the war have been “high — in terms of both lives and dollars,” Smith said, calling current war plans “unsustainable.”

For those reasons, Washington should “withdraw and draw down” American forces “as soon as we responsibly can,” he said.

Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, acknowledged lawmakers’ growing concerns about the Afghanistan war’s massive price tag.

But leaving now would bring “even greater costs” by potentially allowing al Qaeda to reestablish a foothold to plan attacks and train operatives from inside Afghanistan, Flournoy told the panel. She invoked U.S. servicemen and servicewomen, saying denying the Islamic extremist group such a safe haven is why they continue to fight there.

The Congressional Research Service has estimated the Pentagon had spent almost $350 billion on the Afghanistan conflict through fiscal 2010.

While Smith raised concerns about costs, during his opening statement, panel Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) said he wants to “understand what resources are required to reinforce the positive trends of 2010.”

McKeon, however, did raise one concern about the Obama administration’s war plans during his opening remarks.

“What conditions would be sufficient to permit the redeployment of some U.S. forces beginning in July 2011? Thus far the exact terms of those conditions remain ambiguous,” McKeon said. “Unfortunately, what we hear informally from commanders on the ground is that ‘the calendar’ is the only condition they’ve been given.”