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British and Afghan flags fly side by side as a Royal Marine mobile patrol leaves Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2006. (Photo: Sean Clee/Royal Navy/Crown Copyright)

British and Afghan flags fly side by side as a Royal Marine mobile patrol leaves Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand Province in 2006. (Photo: Sean Clee/Royal Navy/Crown Copyright)

With Afghanistan Withdrawal Underway, New Report Reveals Costs of Post-9/11 Wars for US Allies

"Americans do not fully understand, do not acknowledge, the sacrifices that allies made in Afghanistan," said the report's author.

Jessica Corbett

With the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan up to 12% complete, a report released Wednesday sheds light on the prices that U.S. allies have paid in lives and dollars for the so-called War on Terror launched after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

"U.S. allies... deployed troops, lost service members, and spent tax dollars on wars that were of little concern to their own national security. They did so largely because of the value they placed on their alliances with the U.S."
—Costs of War Project

While acknowledging that the "Afghan and Iraqi government security forces have incurred the highest human costs of these wars," the new paper (pdf) by Jason Davidson, a professor of political science and international affairs at the University of Mary Washington, focuses on the often-ignored human and financial tolls for top allies.

The report was published by the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and Boston University's Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. It follows a recent update from the project on U.S. lives and dollars lost on two decades of seemingly endless war in Afghanistan.

"The United States' Western allies have been significantly impacted by the post-9/11 wars," project co-director Stephanie Savell said in statement Wednesday. "The lives they lost and the dollars they spent are part of the costs of these wars and should be counted as such."

The paper's section on Afghanistan says that "at the coalition's peak size (in terms of troop totals) in February 2011, the U.S. deployed roughly 100,000 troops and all other allies' deployments totaled 41,893 troops."

While 47 countries had service members deployed to Afghanistan at the time, the top non-U.S. suppliers of troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were the United Kingdom at 9,500, Germany at 4,920, France at 4,000, Italy at 3,770, and Canada at 2,905.

The U.S. had the highest number of allied fatalities in Afghanistan between October 2001 and September 2017—2,316—but the U.K. and Canada had higher losses as a percentage of peak deployment. During that period, 455 troops from the U.K. died, along with 158 Canadians, 86 French, 54 Germans, and 48 Italians.

All five top allies "also spent significant sums of money on their military presence in Afghanistan," the paper points out. From 2001 to 2018, while the U.S. spent $730 billion, the U.K. spent $28.2 billion, Canada $12.7 billion, Germany $11.1 billion, Italy $8.9 billion, and France $3.9 billion. Each nation also provided millions and in some cases billion of dollars in foreign aid to Afghanistan—which, as the report notes, "is one of the world's poorest countries, a fact connected with the devastation of decades of war."

U.S. President Joe Biden—who, as senator, voted for the 2001 resolution that authorized the use of military force against nations, groups, or people then-President George W. Bush deemed responsible for the 9/11 attacks—announced last month that all American troops will be out of Afghanistan by this September 11, which misses by months the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed to by his predecessor.

The Associated Press reports that "there are at least 3,300 American troops and special operations forces there now; hundreds more have gone in to provide security and logistical help for the withdrawal."

Davidson told The Guardian—which published an exclusive report on the new paper early Wednesday—that "Americans do not fully understand, do not acknowledge, the sacrifices that allies made in Afghanistan."

"It's something that not only doesn't get attention from those who are critics of the allies," he said. "It doesn't even get the attention that it deserves from those who are generally cheerleaders for allies, like the current administration. I would like to see more American policymaker acknowledgment and discussion with the public of the costs that America's allies have incurred in these wars."

The Guardian pointed out that the paper's findings echo a December study by the U.K.-based group Action on Armed Violence showing that the United Kingdom's troops were 12% more likely to have been killed than U.S. troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"It is clear that Afghanistan proved to be a significant burden for U.K. troops," said Iain Overton, editor of that study. "The U.K. military suffered almost three-quarters of its total deaths there in the last two decades."

According to the Costs of War Project paper, "At the coalition's peak deployment in December 2005, the U.S. had 160,000 troops in Iraq and the allies had 20,998 troops deployed."

After the U.S. and U.K., which had 8,500 soldiers deployed in January 2006, the top troop suppliers during the peak of the Iraq War were South Korea with 3,200, Italy with 2,600, Poland with 1,400, and Australia with 900.

Between March 2003 and January 2012, 4,487 American soldiers were killed in Iraq. The U.K. lost 179 service members, followed by Italy with 33, Poland with 23, Australia with two, and South Korea with one.

The U.S. spent $756 billion in Iraq from 2003 to 2018. Other top suppliers of military funding were the U.K. with $9.9 billion, Italy with $3 billion, Australia with $1.7 billion, South Korea with $613 million, and Poland with $449 million. Over that same period, as the U.S. provided over $43 billion in foreign aid to Iraq, Italy gave $2.1 billion, the U.K. gave $1.88 billion, and other nations gave millions to the country.

"It is important to recognize the costs that allies incurred in both wars," the report says. "The U.S. allies discussed here deployed troops, lost service members, and spent tax dollars on wars that were of little concern to their own national security. They did so largely because of the value they placed on their alliances with the U.S."

"When U.S. policymakers pressure allies to spend more on defense partnerships," the report concludes, "they should take into account the price that allies have already paid for America's wars."


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