The final price tag for American military involvement in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan will cost taxpayers up to $4.4 trillion, according to a new study.
Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies found that the federal government has already spent between $2.3 and $2.6 trillion on the overseas War on Terror in the 10 years since the 9/11 terror attacks.
If the wars continue, they are on track to dole out at least another $450 billion in Pentagon spending by 2020, the “Costs of War” study said. At the minimum, the total costs for American involvement could cost taxpayers $3.7 trillion.
The study’s projections do not include state and local medical costs for injured veterans, and the promised $5.3 billion reconstruction aid in Afghanistan. The estimates also do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due through 2020. The wars have been financed almost entirely by borrowing; $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending.
When President Obama announced 33,000 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the summer of 2012 he cited costs as one reason for bringing them home. “Over the last decade, we have spent $1 trillion on war at a time of rising debt and hard economic times,” Obama said. “Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource — our people.” Although Pentagon war spending totals $1.3 trillion since 2001, the full cost is grossly underestimated when all factors are counted, the new study suggested.
In addition to direct war spending, federal outlays on homeland security have more than doubled from the $17.1 billion spent in 2001. Homeland security is arguably either an alternative to war, or cost of the mobilization for the war on terror.
Shortly after the Iraq War began in 2001, Joe Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economics professor at Columbia University, estimated that the true costs of the war in Iraq alone may exceed $2 trillion through 2015, far exceeding the Bush Administration’s original estimates. The Bush Administration estimated that a war with Iraq could cost $50 to $60 billion—the price tag of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 2008 Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes published a book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict which revealed projected costs into future decades including medical care for veterans.
In March of this year, the Congressional Research Service issued a report on the costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other operations related to the war on terror and estimated that the Pentagon allocations for war through the current fiscal year exceeded $1.2 trillion.
The “Costs of War” report concludes at least 225,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians have been killed in the wars. The number of war refugees and displaced persons are more than 7.8 million among Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis.
The study was a joint work of more than 20 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel, and political scientists.
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