PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND, BROWN UNIVERSITY – Twenty years of U.S. increased homeland security and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere since September 11, 2001 have come with a price tag of $8 trillion, including the costs of veterans’ care through 2050. The wars have directly killed an estimated 897,000 to 929,000 people – a conservative estimate, according to the Costs of War Project, which today published updates to its comprehensive and widely cited numbers on the true human and budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars. 

Scholars will discuss the findings in a livestream event on September 1 at 10am ET.

Dr. Neta C. Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project, said, “The deaths we tallied are 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 U.S. wars and counterterror operations since 9/11, as we pause and reflect on all of the lives lost.”

The Costs of War reports are comprehensive tallies of what we have already spent on the post-9/11 wars and what we are likely to spend on veterans’ care. Most of the attention on the costs of war focuses on the number the Pentagon reports — on what Congress has appropriated to the Department of Defense for the major war zones. “Our accounting goes beyond the Pentagon’s numbers because the costs of the reaction to 9/11 have rippled through the entire budget,” continued Dr. Crawford.

The Budget Report summarizes the direct war costs—all Department of Defense Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding and State Department war expenditures—and counterterror war-related costs including war-related increases to the Pentagon’s base budget, care for veterans to date and in the future, Department of Homeland Security spending, and interest payments on borrowing for these wars.

Of the $8 trillion estimated costs of the post 9/11 wars:

  • $2.3 trillion is attributed to the Afghanistan/ Pakistan war zone
  • $2.1 trillion is attributed to the Iraq/Syria war zone
  • $355 billion was attributed to other warzones

The balance includes:

  • Related Homeland Security spending of $1.1 trillion;
  • The estimated $2.2 trillion that is obligated for future veterans’ care.

The direct war deaths counted include at least 387,072 civilians. Some of the people classified as opposition fighters (301,933 direct deaths) may actually have been civilians as well, since there are political incentives to classify the dead as militants rather than civilians. Additionally, 680 journalists and 892 humanitarian aid workers were killed as a direct result of war.

Several times the number of people killed directly by bombs, bullets, and fire may have died because of the reverberating effects of war; these “indirect” deaths are caused by loss of access to food, clean drinking water, or infrastructure, war-related disease, and displacement.

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

This report is the latest resource from the Costs of War project, housed at Brown University’s Watson Institute and Boston University’s Pardee Center. The project was launched by a group of scholars and experts in 2010 to document the costs of the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.