War Costs May Total $2.4 Trillion
The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could total $2.4 trillion through the next decade, or nearly $8,000 per man, woman and child in the country, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate scheduled for release Wednesday.
A previous CBO estimate put the wars' costs at more than $1.6 trillion. This one adds $705 billion in interest, taking into account that the conflicts are being funded with borrowed money.
The new estimate also includes President Bush's request Monday for another $46 billion in war funding, said Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., budget committee chairman, who provided the CBO's new numbers to USA TODAY.
Assuming that Iraq accounts for about 80% of that total, the Iraq war would cost $1.9 trillion, including $564 million in interest, said Thomas Kahn, Spratt's staff director. The committee holds a hearing on war costs this morning.
"The number is so big, it boggles the mind," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
Sean Kevelighan, a spokesman for the White House budget office, said, "Congress should stop playing politics with our troops by trying to artificially inflate war funding levels." He declined to provide a White House estimate.
The CBO estimates assume that 75,000 troops will remain in both countries through 2017, including roughly 50,000 in Iraq. That is a "very speculative" projection, though it's not entirely unreasonable, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the non-partisan Lexington Institute.
As of Sept. 30, the two wars have cost $604 billion, the CBO says. Adjusted for inflation, that is higher than the costs of the Korea and Vietnam conflicts, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Defense spending during those two wars accounted for a far larger share of the American economy.
In the months before the March 2003 Iraq invasion, the Bush administration estimated the Iraq war would cost no more than $50 billion.
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