How to Save Billions Now and in The Future



This week Chancellor George Osborne unveiled £6.2 billion in public spending cuts; the first round in what is expected to be a deep and painful austerity program to rein in Britain’s £156 billion deficit.  According to Osborne, the government is targeting ‘wasteful spending’.  If waste is truly in the crosshairs, I’d like to put forth a glaringly obvious proposal that will save Britain billions now and in the future. Withdraw our troops from Afghanistan.

Sadly, arguing the case for withdrawal on the basis of British lives lost– both men and women in uniform and private security contractors working in Afghanistan — has thus far failed to convince the government to rethink its policy.  Public pressure hasn’t hit critical mass. Perhaps too many voters feel the conflict has no impact on their day-to-day lives or they’ve been frightened by the government’s claims that Britain’s continued involvement in Afghanistan is necessary for safeguarding our national security.  But where blood has failed to persuade, treasure may succeed, especially now that every man, woman and child in this country is living in the shadow of an £893.4 billion debt mountain.

The economic argument for pulling out of Afghanistan is compelling.  An analysis by the Independent on Sunday estimated that by the middle of this year, the MoD will have spent £9 billion on Afghan operations; a figure that only accounts for logistical costs including wages, equipment and transport. When the Independent factored in ‘hidden costs’ such as support for injured troops, veterans and the families of soldiers killed in action, the figure climbed to £12 billion.  And that’s just the bill so far. There are also long-term costs associated with the Afghan campaign, for example, the on-going care of wounded veterans and soldiers suffering from PTSD.  Consider too that the MoD isn’t the only British presence in Afghanistan.  The Foreign Office and British development agencies have poured tens of millions of pounds into the Afghan black hole.

Again, the naysayers will argue that Britain needs to stay the course in Afghanistan to protect our shores from terrorists.  As I’ve argued before, Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan has stoked home grown terrorism and compromised our future defence capabilities by forcing the MoD to gut the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to free up cash for operations.  It’s also a mistake to view national security exclusively through the lens of counter-terrorism. Economic strength is equally vital.  Right now, Britain is staring down the barrel of a sovereign debt downgrade that would boot it out of the premier league of world economies.  And while Britain continues to spend on Afghanistan, education budgets in this country are being slashed. The impact on our future competitiveness cannot be overstated. We need to give our children a running start; not rob them of a decent education and saddle them with a debt bomb.

Britain’s new Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, recently described Afghanistan as ‘a broken 13th century country’.  As much as I admire the Afghans for their toughness and cunning, I have to say I agree.  Pouring good money after bad is not going to fix Afghanistan.  But it will add to Britain’s already considerable economic woes.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories British PoliticsTags, , , , , 4 Comments

4 thoughts on “How to Save Billions Now and in The Future”

  1. It would be better for us to withdraw from Afghanistan and comprehensively examine how we can enter a conflict either as part of a coalition or unilaterally without having to canibalise spending and equipment distribution in the services to a degree where the forces are literally on the verge of disintigration.

    A better planned and costed military would be cheaper and better value in the long run.

  2. The Army’s flexibility, willingness and professionalism is more than the Taliban is prepared to deal with at a one to one confrontational level. However what British troops cannot do is turn around the centuries of entrenched corruption that exist to such a great degree in Afghanistan. To date the diplomatic elements that are in country in significant numbers have not dented the underhand culture either. This is especially the case in Kabul, the population of afghanistan outside of the capital rarely if at all see the positives that allegedly come from the huge international community that have set up there.
    Further to this there has been a love affair between the previous Govt and mass immigration, if only 1% of the Britain’s asian community go the way of the Jihad then the mission objective “keeping the UK safe” is rendered pointless. Less troops in Afghan,less overt action with media attached, more SF ops with a better thought out long term mandate. Otherwise we’ll be there in another 10 years but with nothing to show for it but a huge bill in money and dead green troops.

  3. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different website and
    thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to going over your web page again.

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