Nov 20, 2019

U.S. taxpayers have spent $6.4 trillion on post-9/11 conflicts

A boy watches a U.S. convoy on patrol in Syria
A boy watches a U.S. convoy on patrol in Syria, Oct. 31. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

American taxpayers so far spent $6.4 trillion on costs related to and caused by post-9/11 wars and conflicts in more than 80 countries, according to a new report by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

The big picture: The institute notes that because the conflicts have been largely paid for with deficit spending, their total cost will continue to rise from loan interest — even if the U.S. withdraws from major war zones by the end of fiscal year 2020. Ongoing care costs for veterans will also increase the eventual cost.

By the numbers: Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the longest war in U.S. history — has cost around $978 billion from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2020, an average of $49 billion each year.

  • Appropriations for the Iraq and Syria wars have totaled about $880 billion from 2003 through 2020, averaging $44 billion every year.
  • All operations in the global War on Terror, including those in the U.S., Europe, Africa and other regions, averaged more than $100 billion each year.

What the report says: The Watson Institute reports that the increases in military spending over the last two decades "are likely to remain, inflating the military budget over the long run."

  • It concludes that the major trends in budgetary costs of the conflicts include "less transparency in reporting costs among most major agencies; greater institutionalization of the costs of war in the DOD base budget, State Department, and DHS; and the growing budgetary burden of veterans’ medical care and disability care."

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