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September 8, 2020 – The United States’ post-9/11 wars have displaced at least 37 million people, according to a new report released today by Costs of War. This study, “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the U.S. Post-9/11 Wars,” is the first to calculate the displacement toll of these wars.

The estimate was derived by counting refugees, asylum seekers pursuing protection as refugees, and internally displaced people or persons (IDPs) in the eight countries that the United States has most targeted in the post-9/11 wars:  Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria. 

Thirty-seven million is a conservative estimate. It does not include the millions more who have been displaced by other post-9/11 conflicts where U.S. forces have been involved in “counterterror” activities in more limited yet significant ways, including in: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Additionally, many displaced people avoid registering with governments or international organizations and thus are not counted in statistics. Lastly, researchers limited their calculations for Syria to documented displacements resulting only from the U.S. anti-ISIS war, rather than the broader conflict. This means that the total number of actual persons displaced by the U.S. post-9/11 wars could be closer to 48-59 million.

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The study’s lead author, American University professor David Vine says, “The displacement documented in this paper is not simply a matter of ‘unintended consequences’ or ‘collateral damage’ that can be easily pushed aside or dismissed. The displacement and other suffering must be central to any analysis of the post-9/11 wars.”

This report was released in conjunction with American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop, which also published today a series of pieces, including on Dr. Vine’s forthcoming book, “United States of War.”

Read an overview of the Costs of War Project’s findings: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/home/2020%20Costs%20of%20War%20Overview.pdf

Read the full report, “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars”:
https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2020/Displacement_Vine%20et%20al_Costs%20of%20War%202020%2009%2008.pdf

The Costs of War Project is a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians, which began its work in 2010. We use research and a public website to facilitate debate about the costs of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria. There are many hidden or unacknowledged costs of the United States’ decision to respond to the 9/11 attacks with military force. We aim to foster democratic discussion of these wars by providing the fullest possible account of their human, economic, and political costs, and to foster better informed public policies. https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/