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America’s 20-year war on terror has killed up to 929,000 people and cost over $8 trillion: report

  • America’s global war on terror has a pricetag of $8 trillion, according to a new Costs of War report.
  • Costs of War also puts the number of people directly killed by the war at up to 929,000, including at least 387,072 civilians.
  • “Twenty years from now, we’ll still be reckoning with the high societal costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars,” a co-director of the project said.

The pricetag of America’s global war on terror is estimated to stand at roughly $8 trillion, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War project.  

The estimate factors in “future costs for veteran’s care, the total budgetary costs and future obligations of the post-9/11 wars.” 

The report attributes $2.3 trillion to the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone, $2.1 trillion to the Iraq and Syria war zone, and $355 billion to other war zones. 

Dr. Neta C. Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project, in a statement said the project’s accounting “goes beyond the Pentagon’s numbers because the costs of the reaction to 9/11 have rippled through the entire budget.” 

Costs of War also estimates that the war on terror, which will mark its 20th anniversary in a few weeks on September 11, has directly killed 897,000 to 929,000 people — including at least 387,072 civilians.

Crawford said this is “likely a vast undercount of the true toll these wars have taken on human life.”

“It’s critical we properly account for the vast and varied consequences of the many US wars and counterterror operations since 9/11, as we pause and reflect on all of the lives lost,” Crawford added.

In a report released last year, Costs of War estimated that the war on terror has displaced at least 37 million people on top of the hundreds of thousands of people killed in direct war violence.

The US finalized its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday and is reckoning with the consequences of the 20-year conflict. The final stages of the withdrawal occurred under violent and chaotic circumstances, with the Taliban back in control of Afghanistan and thousands clambering to get out of the country.

Though the US no longer has a troop presence in Afghanistan, the war on terror is seemingly poised to continue there as the Biden administration signals that it will continue to target ISIS-K in the country via drones and other means. 

The US also continues to have a military presence in Iraq and Syria, among other countries, and in recent weeks has conducted multiple airstrikes against Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affiliate, in Somalia

“What have we truly accomplished in 20 years of post 9/11 wars, and at what price?” Dr. Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War Project, said in a statement on the new report. “Twenty years from now, we’ll still be reckoning with the high societal costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars – long after US forces are gone.”

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