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Cost of Wars Since 9/11: $6.4 Trillion and Rising

Michael Rainey

The total cost of the wars fought since 9/11 is approaching $6.4 trillion, according to an annual report published Wednesday by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.

The cost estimate includes $5.4 trillion in federal appropriations through the end of the 2020 fiscal year, plus at least $1 trillion in obligations for the care of veterans over the coming decades.

The report says that while the “global war on terror” began in Afghanistan with a focus on fighting al Qaeda and its affiliates, it has expanded into more than 80 countries. That effort has been paid for at least in part with deficit spending, and the Watson Institute includes the ongoing cost of interest on the associated debt in its long-term estimate.

“[E]ven if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the US pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” the report says. “Moreover, the increases in the Pentagon base budget associated with the wars are likely to remain, inflating the military budget over the long run.”


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