Estimated Cost of Post-9/11 US Wars Hits $8 Trillion With Nearly a Million People Dead

Brown University’s Costs of War Project assesses the toll of war and military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere over the last two decades. 

Yemeni children play in the rubble of buildings destroyed in an air raid. (Peter Biro, EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Jon Queally
Common Dreams

With the final U.S. soldiers leaving Afghanistan earlier this week after nearly 20 years of occupation and war, a new analysis released Wednesday shows the United States will ultimately spend upwards of $8 trillion and that nearly one million people have lost their lives so far in the so-called “global war on terror” that was launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, which has been releasing reports on the financial and human costs of the post-9/11 wars at regular intervals since 2010, the total cost of the war and military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and elsewhere over the last two decades have directly killed at least 897,000 to 929,000 people — an estimate the researchers say is conservative.

“The deaths we tallied are likely a vast undercount of the true toll these wars have taken on human life,” said Dr. Neta C. Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project, in a statement. “It’s critical we properly account for the vast and varied consequences of the many U.S. wars and counter-terror operations since 9/11, as we pause and reflect on all of the lives lost.”

The study calculates that of the $8 trillion estimated costs in the wars waged by the U.S. since 9/11:

  • $2.3 trillion is attributed to the Afghanistan/ Pakistan war zone;   
  • $2.1 trillion is attributed to the Iraq/Syria war zone; and   
  • $355 billion was attributed to other battlefields, including Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere

Above those figures, another $1.1 trillion was spent on Homeland Security programs and $2.2 trillion is the estimated obligation for the future care of U.S. veterans who served in the various wars.

Detailing the report for The Intercept, journalist Murtaza Hussain writes:

“The staggering economic costs of the war on terror pale in comparison to the direct human impact, measured in people killed, wounded, and driven from their homes. The Costs of War Project’s latest estimates hold that 897,000 to 929,000 people have been killed during the wars.

Of those killed, 387,000 are categorized as civilians, 207,000 as members of national military and police forces, and a further 301,000 as opposition fighters killed by U.S.-led coalition troops and their allies.

The report also found that around 15,000 U.S. military service members and contractors have been killed in the wars, along with a similar number of allied Western troops deployed to the conflicts and several hundred journalists and humanitarian aid workers.”

The question of how many people have lost their lives in the post-9/11 conflicts has been the subject of ongoing debate, though the numbers in all cases have been extraordinarily high. Previous Costs of War studies have put death toll figures in the hundreds of thousands, an estimate tallying those directly killed by violence.

According to a 2015 estimate from the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility, well over million have been killed both indirectly and directly in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone.

The difficulty of calculating death tolls is made harder by the U.S. military’s own refusal to keep track of the number of people killed in its operations, as well as the remoteness of the regions where many of the conflicts take place.

The researchers behind the project emphasized that while the total number of direct deaths caused by the more recent wars are less than the World Wars and the Vietnam War, the post-9/11 conflicts are different because of the long-term damage they have done to the societies that have suffered under many years of constant bombings, death, and destruction.

“What have we truly accomplished in 20 years of post 9/11 wars, and at what price?” asked Dr. Stephanie Savell, co-director of the project, in a statement. “Twenty years from now, we’ll still be reckoning with the high societal costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars — long after U.S. forces are gone.”

The Costs of War Project’s report arrived on the same day as a similar study unveiled by the National Priorities Project which showed that overall spending on increased militarization — both abroad and domestically in the U.S.— has soared since 9/11. In that study, as Common Dreams reports separately Wednesday, overall spending on increased military operations, domestic surveillance, border security is estimated at $21 trillion.

This article is from  Common Dreams.


8 comments for “Estimated Cost of Post-9/11 US Wars Hits $8 Trillion With Nearly a Million People Dead

  1. JGarbo
    September 5, 2021 at 08:42

    Don’t think of it as a “cost”, more of an “investment” in *my* future dividends in the generous MIC. I see the exit…

  2. bobzz
    September 3, 2021 at 09:25

    These wars were fought on borrowed money. The costs do not include interest, which must be enormous. 80-90 percent of the trillions ended up in the pockets of CEOs, contractors, bankers, etc. Endless wars have enriched thieves and murders. Think Smedley Butler and his little but revealing book, War Is a Racket.

    • JGarbo
      September 5, 2021 at 08:44

      “Dogs bark at the caravan and it passes”. Do the dogs believe they scared it away?

  3. Jimm
    September 3, 2021 at 08:21

    As has been said, no one is held accountable for this massive war crime except the whistle blowers. JFK wished the CIA to be blown into “a thousand little pieces” and instead his head received that treatment. In perhaps the most courageous speech ever spoken (“Beyond Vietnam”) MLK would seal his own fate and receive the similar head treatment. RFK would follow. Arguably the highest profile soldier who had volunteered for the “war on terror” and who later became critical of the Iraq invasion took 3 bullets to the head center-mass, from his own side, a fact which came to light only after the official lies were exposed thanks to his determined mother.

  4. Jeff Harrison
    September 2, 2021 at 21:18

    And I’m quite confident that the warmongers a la Madeline Albright would once again say, It was worth it. They may come to rue that feeling. At least, I hope they do.

  5. Marie-France Germain
    September 2, 2021 at 16:26

    This is completely unnecessary and avoidable. There is no reason for war in these modern times when there are devices for translations that are better than ever in quality of translations and people who are properly trained especially for open diplomacy (no strings attached) and dialogue who should be those who are ambassadors. Neither buying positions nor positions given out due to political influence should be allowed as a favour for those who slime for empire. One recent appointment is that of Rahm Emmanuel for ambassador to Japan or in Canada when Harper stuck the UK with BC’s former premier, G. Campbell for doing the feds dirty work in BC. These things should be roundly protested by the populace because these ambassadors do not represent the peoples of our various countries and end up doing dirty deeds such as causing societal strife and disruptions around the world for empire.

    Ultimately, true diplomacy is much less costly in every aspect than wars and most often economically beneficial as trust is built between nations rather than for fear of the other and repercussions. It is also a definite sign of a mature and responsible civilization which I do not believe we presently have reached in our Western societies and nations.

  6. firstpersoninfinite
    September 2, 2021 at 14:11

    When war becomes your business model, those seeking peace become your greatest enemy.

  7. Jeff Harrison
    September 2, 2021 at 12:35

    The scary thing is that what goes around, comes around.

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