America's 'war on terror' has cost the US nearly $6 trillion and killed roughly half a million people, and there's no end in sight

  • The US will have spent nearly $US6 trillion on the war on terror by the end of fiscal year 2019, according to a startling new report.
  • “If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow,” the Costs of War report states.
  • Between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed in the United States’ post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – including nearly 7,000 US troops – according to the Costs of War project.
  • America is conducting counterterror operations in 76 countries and US troops are fighting and dying everywhere from Afghanistan to Niger.

The US will have dished out nearly $US6 trillion on the war on terror by October 2019, and there’s no end in sight to the convoluted, ill-defined conflict.

According to an annual report from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, the total cost of the war on terror will reach roughly $US5.9 trillion through fiscal year 2019.

This is far higher than the Pentagon’s official calculation of $US1.5 trillion because it goes beyond Defence Department appropriations and includes the cost of “spending across the federal government that is a consequence of these wars.”


Read more: The most elite US-trained forces in Afghanistan routed by the Taliban, another sign the war is a lost cause

The report also factors in war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security.

“If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow,” the report states.

“Even if the wars are ended by 2023, the US would still be on track to spend an additional $US808 billion to total at least $US6.7 trillion, not including future interest costs,” the report adds. “Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow.”


Read more: ‘We are losing’: Trump and his top advisors aren’t publicly admitting how bad things are in Afghanistan

‘This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while’

The war on terror was born out of the 9/11 terror attacks over 17 years ago.

“This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while,” former President George W. Bush said on the White House South Lawn on Sept. 16, 2001. “And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient… It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully into the 21st century.”

This was two days after Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which essentially gave Bush and his two successors carte blanche to deploy US military personnel and assets virtually anywhere in the world for the sake of fighting terrorism.

Nearly two decades later, America is conducting counterterror operations in 76 countries and US troops are fighting and dying everywhere from Afghanistan to Niger. At this point, it’s not clear what victory would even mean in the context of this broad conflict, which the US public seems to pay less and less attention to.


Read more: This map shows how the US is fighting terrorism in 76 countries around the world

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, is dead. But the Taliban seem stronger than ever in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and its affiliates are active across multiple continents, and the US is also still fighting against the Islamic State group. It’s unlikely the roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan will be coming home anytime soon, and the same goes for the approximately 2,200 US troops in Syria.

The war has been accompanied by hundreds of thousands of deaths as well as violations of human rights and civil liberties, both at home and abroad.

Between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed in the United States’ post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – including nearly 7,000 US troops – according to the Costs of War project.

Beyond the monetary issues related to the so-called war on terror, there’s a massive human cost as well.

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