[credit provider=”Stars and Stripes” url=”http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/true-cost-of-wars-in-afghanistan-iraq-is-anyone-s-guess-1.152268#”]
With talk of trimming the defence budget floating about Washington, lawmakers are eager to nail down what’s being spent where but despite their best efforts, answers are proving hard to find.Stars And Stripes reports that as of May 2011, U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq totaled $9.7 billion a month, or roughly the entire annual budget of The Environmental Protection Agency.
While the total amount spent on the two wars could range anywhere from $3.7 up to $5.2 trillion, depending how much the Pentagon pulled from its base budget, even small chunks could power many efforts at home.
- The amount the U.S. spends in Afghanistan and Iraq each month could run the entire State Department for four months.
- For the cost of one month in Iraq and Afghanistan, NASA could have launched the space shuttle five more times.
- Medicare’s 2003 expanded drug benefits for seniors that will cost $385 billion over 10 years could be paid for with 40 months of Pentagon spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Two years of air conditioning for troops in Afghanistan at $38 billion could provide 40 years of federal Amtrak funding.
- Five years of fuel for vehicles, generators and aircraft in Afghanistan at $10.3 billion could have paid for the 2010 EPA budget.
Even the most basic estimates can be deceiving. From October 2010 to May 2011 the U.S. military bought 329.8 million gallons of fuel in Afghanistan at $1.5 billion or $4.55 a gallon. Reasonable at a glance, but that number doesn’t reflect transportation costs to and around combat zones, injuries, deaths, medical treatment, and rehabilitation — all of which drive the cost to hundreds of dollars per gallon.
Even as the wars wind down, costs are rising. It now costs the U.S. $694,000 to keep each servicemember in Afghanistan, up from $667,000 in 2009. In Iraq, the cost has gone from $512,000 in 2007 to $802,000 this year.
The irony to the increased costs is the military now has a smaller, less well-trained force, and older, run-down equipment as it buys materiel that’s vastly more expensive than what it’s replacing.