The final bill for U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan could be as high as $4.4 trillion, according to a comprehensive new report Tuesday.
In the 10 years since American troops were sent into Afghanistan, the federal government has already spent between $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion, say the authors of the study by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.
The report calculates not only direct spending on the conflicts but also the long-term costs of caring for wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 to 2020.
At a minimum, say the authors of the study, the final cost for these military engagements will be $3.7 trillion. But the report also points out that their estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments and other costs that cannot yet be quantified. Indeed, the report criticized the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon for poor accounting.
Although the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been made public, the report notes, it is not yet clear how many soldiers return to the United States with injuries and illnesses. New disability claims are being submitted on an ongoing basis, and many injuries among U.S. contractors have not been made public, further complicating calculations of the costs of war.
Even as President Obama recently announced plans for a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the report asserts that conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue through the decade, adding to both financial and human cost.
The report puts the number of civilian deaths to date at approximately 137,000, and the total number of deaths attributable to military conflict in these countries, in uniform or out of uniform, to around 225,000. The study also suggests that the number of war refugees and displaced persons now number around 7.8 million.
"Costs of War," as the study was titled, was a joint project that involved the work of over twenty academics, including economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts and a physician.