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Since 9/11, the US has spent $5.6 trillion on wars, according to a new study

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According to a new study by the end of 2018 the United States will have spent $5.6 trillion on war since 9/11.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Center says the average American taxpayer has spent more than $23,386 on wars since 2001.

“The U.S. wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the increased spending on homeland security and the departments of defense, state and veterans affairs since the 9/11 attacks have cost more than $4.3 trillion in current dollars through fiscal year 2017,” said Neta Crawford, Costs of War co-director and a professor of political science at Boston University. “Adding likely costs for fiscal year 2018 and estimated future obligations for veteran's care, the costs of war total more than $5.6 trillion.”


The Costs of War project launched in 2011 to document the costs of the post-9/11 wars. Their latest report takes into account not only D.O.D. spending, but also the departments of state, veterans affairs and homeland security as well as the cost of interest paid to date on money the U.S. has borrowed for war funding.

Some of the Costs of War Project’s most noteworthy findings:


  • 200,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.
  • Over 6,800 US soldiers have died in the wars.
  • The wars have been accompanied by erosion's in civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.
  • The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades with some costs, such as the financial costs of US veteran's care, not peaking until mid-century.
  • US government funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has totaled over $170 billion. Most funds have gone towards arming security forces in both countries.
  • Much of the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society has been lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.
  • Both Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rank extremely low in global studies of political freedom.
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While the Costs of War project incorporates as much data as possible in its calculations, Crawford says there are still billion of dollars not accounted for in the estimated cost.

“Although this report’s accounting is comprehensive, there are still billions of dollars not included in its estimate,” Crawford said. “For example, the report’s total does not include the substantial costs of war to state and local governments — most significantly, the costs of caring for veterans — or the millions of dollars in excess military equipment the U.S. donates to countries in and near the war zones.”


The $5.6 trillion figure does not include the money the U.S. commits to operations in the Horn of Africa, Uganda, Trans-Sahara, the Caribbean and Central America as part of Operation Enduring Freedom; spending through the Department of Defense European Reassurance Initiative to deter Russia; money for Operation Odyssey Lightning, which paid for airstrikes against ISIS in Libya beginning in 2016; or U.S. counter-terrorism efforts across the globe.

Crawford says that even though her estimate is far higher than the Pentagon’s, it's still conservative.

“As these wars, the longest in U.S. history, have been institutionalized, it will become increasingly difficult to disentangle the parts of the base Pentagon budget that are actually war-related costs and what parts of the special overseas contingency operations appropriations are better considered budget costs.”

Costs of War: the Human Toll of the Post-9/11 Wars


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