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All three Republican candidates in the 2nd Congressional District were at the Aug. 30 debate produced by Channel 6 and carried on Cox Cable Channel 5, also known as the Rhode Island News Channel.
Early on, the three men were asked for specifics regarding how they would cut the federal budget. Candidate Michael Gardiner singled out the high cost of fighting in Afghanistan.
"It costs us, logistically, three times more to fight in Afghanistan than it does in any other place. Really," he said. "So we really need to lower our expectations there and save the lives and save the war costs and bring that money home to rebuild America."
Thirty seconds later, he repeated that assertion.
We did a quick Google search, hoping to find the source of that number, and drew a blank.
So we called Gardiner. He said he came across it while surfing the Internet. "I'm looking for information constantly." But he didn't remember where he saw it.
"Because of the location, I guess it's landlocked in central Asia, it cost three times more to fight there than it does in Iraq. I said anywhere else. I was being a little bit loose. Specifically it's three times more to fight there than in Iraq. It's probably because you have to fly everything in."
He subsequently sent us a USA Today article from May 13 noting that in February, the Pentagon was spending $6.7 billion per month in Afghanistan compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq. "As recently as fiscal year 2008, Iraq was three times as expensive; in 2009 it was twice as costly," according to the article.
The article also noted that the "costs per service member in Afghanistan have been roughly double what they were in Iraq since 2005," because of its landlocked location, less-reliable security, high cost of fuel and its lack of infrastructure.
We found another source: a July 16, 2010 report on "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11" from the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm for Congress. It contained a breakdown of how much has been spent in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, along with a monthly count of how many military personnel (described as "boots on the ground") in each country each month.
We took the September spending numbers for each year and each war and calculated the approximate cost per service member. Over the life of the Afghanistan war, the cost through September comes out to roughly $1.26 million per person. The average is $758,000 per person in Iraq.
So it has cost, on a per-service member basis, about two thirds more to fight in Afghanistan than in Iraq.
We rate Gardiner's statement False.
Channel 6 debate, Republican candidates for 2nd Congressional District, Aug. 30, 2010
Interview, Michael Gardiner, Aug. 31, 2010
USAToday.com, "Afghan war costs now outpace Iraq's," May 13, 2010, accessed Aug. 31, 2010
Congressional Research Service, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanista, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," July 16, 2010, accessed Aug. 31, 2010
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