1. Update
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

Costs of War: By the Numbers

March 15, 2011


On October 7, 2001, the United States officially began Operation Enduring Freedom and the war in Afghanistan. Almost 19 years later, the U.S. finds itself struggling to conclude two decades of relentless war that has cost trillions of dollars and an untold number of lives.

Now it’s time to bring our brothers and sisters home and finally turn the page on a long decade of war.

Talking Points:

U.S. and global security depend on a less militarized foreign policy.

U.S. and global security depend on the effective use of all the diplomatic instruments of our foreign policy. By turning the page on war, the U.S. can focus on 21st century national security solutions, while rebuilding the foundations of U.S. strength and security by growing the U.S. economy, putting Americans back to work, and paying down the federal deficit.

Afghanistan’s future depends on Afghans, not U.S. soldiers.

There is unanimous agreement that the future of Afghanistan depends on Afghans and their regional allies implementing a political solution. There is simply no military solution to the current challenges faced in Afghanistan and maintaining a U.S. military presence only delays the inevitable political process while needlessly putting U.S. troops and innocent civilians in harms way. The U.S. military must leave, but the U.S. should not wholesale abandon Afghanistan. A significantly less expensive political and economic transition strategy will be needed far into the future.

The human and economic costs of a decade of war are simply unsustainable.

The war in Afghanistan has killed over 43,000 civilians since 2001, with total civilian casualties in Afghanistan surpassing 100,000 in 2019. U.S. soldiers have also suffered from a decade of war with over 7,000 dead and over 52,000 wounded. Unwilling to pay a cent for the war when the troops were deployed, the price tag for a decade of war is at least $6.4 trillion, paid for entirely on the nation’s credit card. Without a change of policy, America is poised to spend hundreds of billions more in the decade to come, adding to our nation’s deficit and wasting precious resources desperately needed at home.

By the Numbers

Deaths from War

  • 313,000-336,000 civilians have been killed in U.S. wars since 2001: 43,000 in Afghanistan, 24,000 in Pakistan, and 184,000-207,000 in Iraq
  • 7,000 U.S. troops have been killed in war from 2001 through the end of 2018: 2,298 in Afghanistan and 4,572 U.S. troops in Iraq.
  • 173,000-177,000 local military and police have been killed since 2001: 64,000 in Afghanistan and 48,000-52,000 in Iraq.
  • 136 American soldiers have died in other theaters of war
  • 52,010 U.S. troops have been wounded in war since 2001
  • At least 7,950 private contractors working for the Pentagon have died in war since 2001: 3,814 in Afghanistan and 3,588 in Iraq.
  • 2018 was the deadliest year for civilians, with 3,804 deaths, including 927 children.
  • 2010 was deadliest year of war in Afghanistan, with 499 U.S. service members killed
  • August 2011 was the deadliest month of entire 10 years of war in Afghanistan
  • In 2009 more U.S. soldiers died from suicide than were killed in combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan

Veterans and Long-Term Effects

  • Roughly 2 million U.S. troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 1.2 million are now eligible for VA services 600,000 veterans have already been treated at veterans medical facilities
  • 970,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have registered disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Nearly 50% of returning troops are eligible for some level of disability payment
  • Future disability and health-care costs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is conservatively estimated to be $600-900 billion
  • Over 78,000 veterans have died from suicide since 2005
  • It is estimated that 1 in 3 soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan will develop PTSD
  • The Rand Corporation has estimated that approximately 320,000 service members may have experienced traumatic brain injury during their deployment.
  • In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day, totaling 7,300 for the year.
  • In 2018, there were 321 active-duty suicides, the highest in 6 years.

Spending on War

Total cost for war a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq: $6.4 trillion (additional $8 trillion in interest payments)

This figure includes: direct Congressional war appropriations; war-related increases to the Pentagon base budget; veterans care and disability; increases in the homeland security budget; interest payments on direct war borrowing; foreign assistance spending; and estimated future obligations for veterans’ care.

Average annual spending since 2001: $260 billion

Breakdown (an approximation):

  • $21. billion per month
  • $5 Billion per week
  • $712 Million per day
  • $30 Million per hour
  • $495,000 per minute

Overall, we lost the opportunity to create 2 million jobs.