Endless Wars Have Cost Americans $1.6 Trillion, Report Finds
Post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost—and 'the costs go on.'
The United States has spent $1.6 trillion on post-9/11 military operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, weapons procurement and maintenance, and base support, according to a report (pdf) issued earlier this month by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
As some analysts point out, that's more money than the U.S. spent on the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 all rolled into one.
According to International Business Times, "the $1.6 trillion estimate, which comes to $14 million per hour since 9/11...is up roughly half a trillion dollars from its 2010 estimate, which found that the post-9/11 military operations are second only to World War II in terms of financial cost."
Of the $1.6 trillion total, CRS specialist Amy Belasco estimates that the funding breaks down as such:
- $686 billion (43%) for Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan);
- $815 billion (51%) for Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (Iraq);
- $27 billion (2%) for Operation Noble Eagle (providing enhanced security at military bases and military operations related to homeland security);
- $81 billion (5%) for war-designated funding not considered directly related to the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.
The report, dated December 8, states that about 92 percent of the funds went to the Department of Defense, with the remainder split between the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other agencies. The key factor determining the cost of war during a given period over the last 13 years has been the number of U.S. troops deployed, according to the report.
To that end, the document says that predicting "future costs of the new U.S. role in countering the Islamic State is difficult because of the nature of the air campaign and uncertainties about whether the U.S. mission may expand."
To curtail costs moving forward, the CRS analysis recommends: "Congress may wish to consider ways to restrict war-funding to exclude activities marginally related to war operations and support, and to limit the use of ground troops in Operation Inherent Resolve," referring to the U.S. military intervention against the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Writing at the Federation of American Scientists blog—where the report was first posted— "Ideally, the record compiled in the 100-page CRS report would serve as the basis for a comprehensive assessment of U.S. military spending since 9/11: To what extent was the expenditure of $1.6 trillion in this way justified? How much of it actually achieved its intended purpose? How much could have been better spent in other ways?"
Mother Jones notes that "[o]ther reports have estimated the cost of U.S. wars since 9/11 to be far higher than $1.6 trillion. A report by Neta Crawford, a political science professor at Boston University, estimated the total cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as post-2001 assistance to Pakistan—to be roughly $4.4 trillion. The CRS estimate is lower because it does not include additional costs including the lifetime price of health care for disabled veterans and interest on the national debt."
Speaking to The Fiscal Times, American University professor of international relations and military history Gordon Adams argues that the costs of war are much higher than any report could show.
"All of these figures do not take into account the long-term consequences, in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder or long-term veterans' bills," he said. "The costs go on. Iraq and Afghanistan will end up being the gift that keeps on giving because—as we did with Vietnam—we will be living with the consequences for many, many years."