The cost of fighting wars through next year has reached $5.6 trillion, according to a study published by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, a Brown University think tank. The study, conducted by Boston University Professor Neta C. Crawford, considered the expenses associated with combat operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Funding the Department of Homeland Security and veterans-care programs operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs also were factors.
The $5.6 trillion figure differs from Pentagon estimates, which peg the cost of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria between Oct. 1, 2000 and Sept. 30, 2018 at $1.52 trillion.
“The difference between this … estimate and other estimates is that it includes not only Pentagon/Department of Defense military spending, but other war-related costs,” the author of the white paper, known as the Costs of War Project, wrote.
“Every war costs money before, during and after it occurs – as governments prepare for, wage, and recover from armed conflict by replacing equipment, caring for the wounded and repairing infrastructure destroyed in the fighting,” Crawford wrote.
The report excluded other cost factors, such as those borne by state and local governments, “gifts” of money to countries where fighting is taking place, and military spending by U.S. allies.
“Moreover, a full accounting of any war’s burdens cannot be placed in columns on a ledger,” Crawford wrote.
The report also cited testimony on Capitol Hill by Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which called the war a “stalemate.”
Nicholson’s words would indicate combat operations would at least continue as they have been since the war against terrorism began in 2001, the report stated.
“There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan. Similarly, despite recent gains, there is little clear sense of how long the U.S will be engaged in Iraq and Syria,” the report stated.
Furthermore, the Trump administration’s announced plans to increase military spending and troop commitments to Afghanistan would require the government to continue to borrow money.
“Future interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023,” the report stated. “By 2056, a conservative estimate is that interest costs will be about $8 trillion unless the U.S. changes the way it pays for the wars.”