New Study Projects Iraq and Afghanistan War Costs Will Total up to $6 Trillion

The most expensive conflicts in U.S. history.


The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately cost the United States anywhere between $4 and $6 trillion, when the total cost, including long-term care for the war’s veterans, is calculated, says a new report from a top Harvard researcher that was released on Thursday.

The study’s lead author, Professor Linda Blimes, says that the two wars are “the most expensive” in U.S. history and “the largest portion of the bill is yet to be paid.”

“The large sums borrowed to finance operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will also impose substantial long-term debt servicing costs,” the report says. “As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives. The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.”

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

Another study released earlier this month by Brown University found that that total cost of the Iraq war alone would be around $2.2 trillion and that long term costs would stretch that total to near $4 trillion.

“What did we buy for $4 trillion?” the report asks. The Los Angeles Times reports today that the U.S. probably bought more Iranian influence in Iraq and in the region. But, the report continues: “[I]t could have been hoped that the ending of the wars would provide a peace dividend. … Instead, the legacy of decisions made during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts will impose significant long-term costs on the federal government, and in particular, on the consolidated national security budget.”

“In short,” the report concludes “there will be no peace dividend, and the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be costs that persist for decades.”

Benjamin J. Armbruster is a Research Associate for The Progress Report and at the Center for American Progress.