New figures from a US military watchdog group have tallied the incredible costs of the US war on terror since September 11, 2001, finding that well over $6 trillion have been dropped on dozens of conflicts in which some 800,000 people have died.
“Since late 2001, the United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $6.4 trillion through Fiscal Year 2020 in budgetary costs related to and caused by the post-9/11 wars,” the Costs of War Project reported in a November 13 paper. The Brown University-based project went on to note that the cost figure comprises “an estimated $5.4 trillion in appropriations in current dollars and an additional minimum of $1 trillion for US obligations to care for the veterans of these wars through the next several decades.”
A separate study published the same day by Costs of War reported the human cost of those wars had reached between 770,000 and 801,000. The wars included in the total include Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as an “Other” category that lumped together a host of smaller conflicts, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The tallied bill includes not just raw Pentagon spending, but also the extensive measures taken by the Department of Homeland Security ($1.05 trillion), additional tack-ons to the defense budget like supplemental spending bills ($803 billion), the new “Overseas Contingency Operations” category ($100 billion), interest paid on borrowing for said spending ($925 billion), US State Department expenses such as USAID ($131 billion) and medical and disability care for post 9/11 veterans ($437 billion at present, but with more than $1 trillion projected through 2059).
Brown political science professor and author of the study Neta Crawford told Military.com the total was “a very rough estimate,” noting, “I think it’s low balling, honestly.”
The Pentagon’s estimate last year was a mere $1.5 trillion, Sputnik reported.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of deaths in wars waged by the US have been in the countries subjected to attack. The largest numbers come from Iraq, where the US has had a continuous military presence since early 2003 and in which it waged a brutal occupation war against an insurgent movement. Costs of War estimates that between 184,382 and 207,156 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the US war there, constituting the vast majority of the 312,971 to 335,745 estimated civilians killed in all US wars since 2001
In all, only 7,014 US soldiers have died, plus another 7,950 US contractors, which includes groups like Blackwater, now rebranded as Academi, which have served as private armies, mostly in Iraq. The report estimates between 254,708 and 259,783 enemy combatants have been killed in those wars; however, citations indicate much of the evidence comes from Pentagon reports, including the leaked Iraq War Logs, in which the line between a civilian and an enemy combatant is likely to be blurred.
For example, US Africa Command previously attempted to maintain the facade that no civilians had been killed by airstrikes in Somalia in years. But in the face of damning evidence to the contrary unearthed by Amnesty International, AFRICOM admitted in April 2019 that some civilians had died. However, as Sputnik reported, airstrike restrictions loosened by the Trump administration in 2017 effectively stopped keeping track of civilian casualties altogether by not requiring commanders to calculate any potential civilian deaths resulting from a strike, thus reporting all deaths from airstrikes as enemy combatants.
“The number of people killed directly in the violence of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are approximated here,” Costs of War noted Wednesday. “Several times as many have been killed indirectly as a result of the wars – because, for example, of water loss, sewage and other infrastructural issues, and war-related disease.”
To give just one example, a 2015 estimate by Costs of War found that as many as 360,000 Afghans might have died due to ancillary effects of the US war.
“Even if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the US pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” Wednesday’s cost estimates report says. The same is likely true of deaths caused by those wars.