Costs of the Afghanistan war, in lives and dollars
Image via AP.

Afghans mob a departing U.S. Air Force C-17
Not all the costs are in yet.

At just short of 20 years, the now-ending U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan was America’s longest war.

Ordinary Americans tended to forget about it, and it received measurably less oversight from Congress than the Vietnam War did. But its death toll is in the many tens of thousands. And because the U.S. borrowed most of the money to pay for it, generations of Americans will be burdened by the cost of paying it off.

Here’s a look at the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, by the numbers, as the Taliban in a lightning offensive take over much of the country before the United States’ Aug. 31 deadline for ending its combat role and as the U.S. speeds up American and Afghan evacuations.

Much of the data below is from Linda Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School and from the Brown University Costs of War project. Because the United States between 2003 and 2011 fought the Afghanistan and Iraq wars simultaneously, and many American troops served tours in both wars, some figures as noted cover both post-9/11 U.S. wars.

Breakdown of the costs of America’s longest war:

— Percentage of U.S. population born since the 2001 attacks plotted by al-Qaida leaders who were sheltering in Afghanistan: Roughly one out of every four.

— American service members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448.

— U.S. contractors killed: 3,846.

— Afghan national military and police killed: 66,000.

— Other allied service members, including from other NATO member states killed: 1,144.

— Afghan civilians killed: 47,245.

— Taliban and other opposition fighters killed: 51,191.

— Aid workers killed: 444.

— Journalists killed: 72.

— Percentage drop in infant mortality rate since U.S., Afghan and other allied forces overthrew the Taliban government, which had sought to restrict women and girls to the home: About 50.

— Percentage of Afghan teenage girls able to read today: 37.

— Date Congress authorized U.S. forces to go after culprits in Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: Sept. 18, 2001.

— Number of times U.S. lawmakers have voted to declare war in Afghanistan: 0.

— Number of times lawmakers on Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee addressed costs of Vietnam War, during that conflict: 42

— Number of times lawmakers in same subcommittee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars, through mid-summer 2021: 5.

— Number of times lawmakers on Senate Finance Committee have mentioned costs of Afghanistan and Iraq wars since Sept. 11, 2001, through mid-summer 2021: 1.

— Amount President Harry Truman temporarily raised top tax rates to pay for Korean War: 92%.

— Amount President Lyndon Johnson temporarily raised top tax rates to pay for Vietnam War: 77%.

— Amount President George W. Bush cut tax rates for the wealthiest, rather than raise them, at outset of Afghanistan and Iraq wars: At least 8%.

— Estimated amount of direct Afghanistan and Iraq war costs that the United States has debt-financed as of 2020: $2 trillion.

— Estimated interest costs by 2050: Up to $6.5 trillion.

— Amount Bilmes estimates the United States has committed to pay in health care, disability, burial and other costs for roughly 4 million Afghanistan and Iraq veterans: more than $2 trillion.

— Period those costs will peak: after 2048.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • Alex

    August 17, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    I remember when Republicans said we were traitors because we dared to say this was an enormous mistake.

    Turns out we were 100% correct.


  • Anna

    August 18, 2021 at 1:13 am

    My neighbor’s aunt makes 62 every hour on the internet..i she has been without work for eight months but the previous month her revenue was 19022 only working on the laptop 5 hours a day..

    check this …… ….

Comments are closed.


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