Today, NPR reported a stunning story: Air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan costs $20.2 billion annually.
That’s more than NASA’s budget. It’s more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It’s what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in land-locked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than “improved goat trails,” [retired Brigadier General Steven] Anderson says. “And you’ve got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.”
In 2010, the US spent $165.1 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Congressional Research Service. This means roughly 12% of expenditures were on air conditioning.
Fuel is not only a budget breaker, it’s a logistical nightmare that can cost lives. Anderson, who manged operational logistics for Gen. David Patreaus in Iraq, explained the impacts of air conditioning on a commander:
“He literally has to stop his combat operations for two days every two weeks so he can go back and get his fuel. And when he’s gone, the enemy knows he’s gone, and they go right back to where they were before. He has to start his counter-insurgency operations right back at square one.”