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Pentagon Says Afghanistan War Costs Dip as Surge Troops Leave

The Pentagon’s monthly spending in Afghanistan dipped to $5.3 billion in October and November, down from an average of $7.8 billion a month in the fiscal year that ended in September, according to data compiled by the Defense Department comptroller’s office.

The drop reflects savings as U.S. military levels in Afghanistan decline. The U.S. stationed 98,000 troops there in October and 97,000 troops in November. There are 89,000 today, as the U.S. continues to draw down from the surge of 33,000 troops President Barack Obama approved in late 2009. An additional 23,000 troops are to be removed by September.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, attending his second Brussels meeting of NATO defense ministers since taking office last July, told reporters traveling with him Feb. 1 that the U.S.-led coalition would shift primarily to advising Afghan forces in 2013 as part of a transition to ending its primary combat role by 2014.

The U.S. still plans to keep some troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to conduct counter-terrorism missions and advise Afghan forces, Panetta said.

U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan reached a high of 100,000 in August 2010 and in March through May 2011. In November 2008, when Obama won the presidency, the U.S. had roughly 30,800 personnel in the country.

Each added soldier in Afghanistan may cost $1 million a year, according to an estimate by Peter Orszag when he was Obama’s budget director.

The Pentagon has obligated more than $1 trillion from September 2001 through Nov. 30 for war-related costs. The expenditures included $714.5 billion for Iraq and $352.3 billion for Afghanistan, according to the newly compiled figures by the Pentagon comptroller.

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