The death of Osama bin Laden and the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks have prompted public reflection on the costs, both political and economic, of the wars and counter-terrorism operations that have taken place during this era.
A March 2011 Congressional Research Service report, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” analyzed the financial outlays that have been made for the conflicts during this nearly decade-long period. The report focuses on expenditures related to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and other counter terror operations; Operation Noble Eagle (ONE), providing enhanced security at military bases; and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The report’s total does not include supplementary economic, food and military aid to Pakistan or assistance to several countries in Africa.
The report’s findings include:
- The price tag through fiscal year 2011 for such purposes as military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care will be $1.283 trillion.
- Of this total through fiscal year 2011, an estimated 63% will have been spent on Iraq ($806 billion) and 35% on Afghanistan ($444 billion).
- If the fiscal year budget for 2012 is approved, the total global security and conflict-related costs will be $1.415 trillion. If overall deployed troop levels come down to 45,000 by 2015 and stay there through 2021, the total two-decade cost will be $1.8 trillion.
- Following the Afghanistan surge announcement in 2009, Defense Department spending on Afghanistan has increased 50%, going from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month. During that time, troop strength has gone from 44,000 to 84,000, and it is expected to be at 102,000 for fiscal year 2011.
- The total operational cost for Afghanistan from the beginning of the conflict in 2001 through 2006 only slightly exceeds the amount spent in 2010 alone — $93.8 billion. The projected total cost relating to Afghanistan in fiscal year 2011 is expected to be $118.6 billion.
The Congressional report includes a number of recommendations to achieve better transparency for defense spending, noting that “there continue to be unexplained discrepancies in [the Department of Defense]’s war cost reports.”