$14 Million an Hour for 13 Years: War on Terror's Astounding Cost

In the 13 years since 9/11, the United States’ “war on terror” could be considered a failure. ISIS swept aside the US-backed Iraqi army earlier this year, the Taliban still launches deadly attacks, including an assault on a school last month that killed 145 people, and American interventions only seem to worsen sectarian bloodshed in the region.


The geopolitical disaster has come at a tremendous cost to American taxpayers, according to a recently released report by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan government organization. The report estimated that since 9/11, American taxpayers have shelled out close to $1.6 trillion on war spending (that’s $14 million an hour), with almost 95 percent of that money going to projects related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The figure put forth by the CRS makes the war on terror the second most expensive military effort, after World War II.

The report concluded that U.S. military operations in Iraq, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, accounted for 51 percent of war-related expenses. Meanwhile, 43 percent of that money went to counterterror operations in Afghanistan.

Almost 92 percent of those funds were provided to the Department of Defense while 6 percent was used for State Department foreign aid programs and diplomacy. And only 1 percent was directed towards medical care for veterans.

The report was released shortly after the Obama administration requested almost $6 billion for military operations against ISIS and announced plans to send 1,300 troops to Iraq in January. The Department of Defense revealed last week that the campaign against ISIS, which began with air strikes in August, has already cost more that $1.1 billion, according to the Associated Press.

Although the report notes that troop levels and defense spending have declined under President Obama, it also cites the escalating violence in the region, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two countries where America has invested the most war related funds, as evidence that the United States will have a continuing presence in the region.

The collapse of Iraqi security forces, the report notes, that occurred when confronted by ISIS demonstrated that the Iraqi army was unprepared to respond to sustained insurgent attacks.

The report also questioned whether Afghan security forces will be able to sustain gains against the Taliban without US assistance and noted that the overall trend in Afghanistan was “one of escalating violence and insurgent attacks”

“In light of this potential, long-term commitment, and the current presence of over 60,000 U.S. troops in the region, Congress may have to face the issue of whether and how much DOD funding would be needed in later years,” the report said. 

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