Wed, Feb 16, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Bush asks Congress for US$82bn in war expenses

SOARING COSTS The US president wants lawmakers to borrow the money to pay for his spending plan, which would add to the already huge federal deficit


US President George W. Bush asked Congress on Monday for almost US$82 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other US overseas efforts, shoving the total price tag for the conflicts and anti-terror fight past US$300 billion.

Leaders of Bush's Republican party hope to push the package through Congress by early spring, which would reflect a general desire in Congress to finance US troops and give Iraqis more responsibility for their country after their national elections.

Bush asked lawmakers to pay for the spending by borrowing the money, which will make huge federal deficits even larger.

"The majority of this request will ensure that our troops continue to get what they need to protect themselves and complete their mission," Bush said in a statement accompanying his request.

He said the money would help continue the pursuit of terrorists and help the US "seize the opportunity to build peace and democracy in the Middle East."

The request gave the latest evidence of how the soaring costs of war and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan have exceeded the administration's early characterizations. White House officials derided former Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey's prewar estimate of a US$100 billion to US$200 billion price tag.

About US$77 billion of the total was for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while about US$5 billion was for aid to US allies. Of the package for the wars, the vast majority -- US$74.9 billion -- was for the Defense Department, with other agencies sharing the rest.

Some US$12 billion was requested to replace or repair worn-out and damaged equipment, including US$3.3 billion for extra armor for trucks and other protective gear, underscoring a sensitivity to earlier complaints by troops.

There also was nearly US$400 million for more generous death benefits for the families of slain soldiers and money to cover higher fuel costs and programs aimed at boosting the morale of US troops weary from extended battlefield deployments.

Bush requested US$658 million to build a new US Embassy in Iraq that could house a staff of 1,000, plus US$717 million to staff it.

Afghanistan would get almost US$2 billion more for its reconstruction, including money to build roads and schools, combat illegal drugs and prepare for parliamentary elections.

There also was money for other US allies,including US$150 million for Pakistan and US$300 million for Jordan. Ukraine would get US$60 million in the aftermath of its elections, and the Palestinians would get US$200 million for economic development and to help them create democratic institutions.

One flash point in Congress might be two US$200 million funds the State Department would control to provide economic and security aid to unspecified allies.

A total of US$950 million would be provided for the tsunami-damaged Indian Ocean countries, largely for relief and long-term reconstruction. That included US$350 million to replenish US accounts tapped earlier for initial aid.

Also requested was US$242 million for aid for Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region, plus another US$100 million to help the Sudanese government implement last month's peace agreement that ended a 20-year-long war in the south.

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