20 years after 9/11, now we know the cost of war
Researchers at Brown University have calculated the cost of the U.S. war on terror – and it’s staggering.
The Costs of War project, founded more than a decade ago at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, is co-directed by Stephanie Savell, Catherine Lutz and Neta Crawford. The team added up all direct costs of the country’s post-9/11 wars, including
- Department of Defense Overseas Contingency Operations funding;
- State Department war expenditures and counterterror war-related costs, including war-related increases to the Pentagon’s base budget;
- care for veterans to date and in the future;
- Department of Homeland Security spending; and
- interest payments on borrowing for these wars.
- The total includes funds that the Biden administration requested in May 2021.
Nearly 20 years after the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, the cost of its global war on terror stands at $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths.
The death toll, standing at an estimated 897,000 to 929,000, includes U.S. military members, allied fighters, opposition fighters, civilians, journalists and humanitarian aid workers who were killed as a direct result of war, whether by bombs, bullets or fire. It does not, the researchers noted, include the many indirect deaths the war on terror has caused by way of disease, displacement and loss of access to food or clean drinking water.
The research by the team has proven to be influential – and President Joe Biden cited their research in explaining why the U.S. withdrew its troops from Afghanistan. “We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan,” Biden said on August 31, 2021. “After more than $2 trillion spent in Afghanistan, costs that Brown University researchers estimated would be over $300 million a day for 20 years — yes, the American people should hear this… what have we lost as a consequence, in terms of opportunities? … I refuse to send America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.”
In announcing the team’s findings, Stephanie Savell asked, “What have we truly accomplished in 20 years of post-9/11 wars and at what price? 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.”
In 2011 on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Rideau Institute published the estimated costs of the war on terrorism for Canada. The total, calculated by David Macdonald, was $92 billion.
- Read more “Costs of the 20-year war on terror: $8 trillion and 900,000 deaths,” September 1, 2021