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War or prosperity? UK announces higher price tag for Afghan war while cutting vital social services

Published time: December 20, 2012 11:43
Edited time: December 20, 2012 15:43
British soldiers of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Welsh before a patrol in the streets of Showal in Nad-e-Ali district, Southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province (AFP Photo / Thomax Coex)

British soldiers of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Welsh before a patrol in the streets of Showal in Nad-e-Ali district, Southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province (AFP Photo / Thomax Coex)

The UK has revealed that the cost of its involvement in the war in Afghanistan has reached $27.6 billion, and may end up being as much as $32.5 billion. Meanwhile, the UK continues to slash domestic social services to reduce its budget deficit.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that Britain has no plans to abandon Afghanistan: “We will be contributing £70m [US$113 million] a year to help pay for the Afghan National Security Forces.”

The UK recently announced an accelerated plan to withdraw 3,800 of its 9,000 troops from Afghanistan in 2013. However, like the US, the UK will maintain an undisclosed number of soldiers in Afghanistan to help local forces with security after NATO’s mission ends in 2014.

"Because of the success of our forces and the Afghan National Security Forces… we'll be able to see troops come home in two relatively even steps – 2013 and 2014," Prime Minister Cameron told Parliament.

At least 438 British troops died during the UK’s 11-year involvement in the widely unpopular and expensive war. UK opinion polls suggest that a majority of British voters think the war is “unwinnable,” and would like to see the soldiers come home ahead of schedule.

And while the UK continues to spend money in Afghanistan, even past the 2014 mark, vital domestic services are being cut. Public spending in 2011 and 2012 dropped by 1.58 per cent ($17.5 billion), the Guardian reported.

The country’s healthcare budget was reduced by 1.2 percent including inflation, about $2 billion, and the education budget was cut by 5.7 percent including inflation, about $5.4 billion.

Cameron has warned that Britain must continue with deep cuts to public spending to reduce the UK’s budget deficit.

In 2012, local patient care was put at risk when GPs were asked to cut services including childhood immunization campaigns, out-of-hours care and minor surgery.

The funding of arts organizations and museums in England will also be cut by $18.8 million starting in 2013. And more than 200 UK libraries were closed this year alone.

The cuts to education have mostly affected children from poor families – one of the repercussions was the closure of primary schools’ breakfast clubs, which were run by charities that provided free breakfasts.

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