Wars’ Cost to U.S. Since the Sept. 11 Attacks: $1.6 Trillion

Updated on
US Marines
US Marines carry their gear after arriving in Kandahar on October 27, 2014, as British and US forces withdraw from the Camp Bastion-Leatherneck complex in Helmand province. Photographer: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations have cost the U.S. a combined $1.6 trillion since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a new Congressional Research Service analysis.

Through fiscal 2014, which ended in September, Congress approved $815 billion for warfare in Iraq, $686 billion for Afghanistan and other operations against terrorism, $81 billion for other war-designated spending and $27 billion for Operation Noble Eagle air patrols over the U.S., according to the report posted on the agency’s internal website. The total includes $297 billion spent on weapon procurement and war repairs.

The assessment is the agency’s first full update of war costs since March 2011. About 92 percent of the funds went to the Pentagon, followed by the State Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It includes war operations, training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan forces, diplomatic operations and medical care for wounded Americans over the past 13 years, the agency said in the report dated Dec. 8. It also includes most reconstructions costs.

“The main factor determining cost is the number of U.S. troops deployed” at different times, the research service said. U.S. troops in Afghanistan peaked at 100,000 in 2011; there are 11,600 there today as the U.S. withdrawal continues.

The figures include war-related intelligence funding that wasn’t tracked or spent by the Defense Department, according to the report. It wasn’t updated with the $63.7 billion in war spending for the current fiscal year for Afghanistan operations and the first installment of operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Human Costs

The Iraq invasion -- initiated on a pledge to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction he didn’t have -- resulted in 4,491 U.S. military and civilian deaths and 32,244 wounded, according to Defense Department data compiled by Bloomberg.

The U.S. invasion to destroy al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and remove the Taliban from power has led to 2,356 military and U.S. civilians deaths and 20,060 wounded as of Dec. 16.

In addition, 128,496 U.S. military who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to September data from the Defense Medical Surveillance System.

Cost Caveats

Unlike academic estimates, which have calculated total costs as much higher, the Congressional Research Service doesn’t include in its calculations the lifetime costs of medical care for disabled veterans, imputed interest on the deficit or potential increases to the base defense budget deemed to be a consequence of the war, according to Amy Belasco, author of the report.

“Such costs are difficult to compute, subject to extensive caveats and often based on methodologies that may not be appropriate,” she wrote.

A June cost-of-war assessment by Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, put the potential total cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and assistance to Pakistan since 2001 at $4.4 trillion, including $316 billion in interest costs and $1 trillion through 2054 for veterans care.

(An earlier version of this story had an incorrect spending total for the war in Afghanistan.)

(Updates with Defense Department’s share of spending in third paragraph.)
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