The war in Afghanistan has cost $2.26 trillion, and the bill will keep rising even after last US troops leave

US Army 101 Airborne Afghanistan
US soldiers recover airdropped fuel at Forward Operating Base Waza K’wah in the Paktika province of Afghanistan.

  • The two-decade war has cost the US $2.26 trillion, according to researchers at Brown University.
  • That analysis doesn’t include the costs of lifetime care for veterans or future interest on money the US borrowed for the war.
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The nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan has cost the United States $2.26 trillion, according to a new analysis by Brown University.

But even after the last American service member leaves Afghanistan later this year, as the Biden administration has pledged, the costs will continue to rise, according to Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

In its Costs of War report released Friday, the Watson Institute tallies the staggering expense of the nation’s longest war, as the Biden administration prepares to withdraw the last few thousand troops from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11.

The analysis collected the estimated congressional appropriations for the war, including operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The greatest single expense – $933 billion, or 41% of the war effort’s total costs – came in the Defense Department’s Overseas Contingency Operations spending, the report states. The controversial OCO budget, which was used to pay for war efforts, was unaffected by budgetary caps imposed on the rest of the department and grew significantly over the years.

But the DoD’s base budget also saw its own war-related increases, apart from the OCO budget and the costs of actually waging war in Afghanistan. The Watson Institute said the military’s overall budget grew by an additional $443 billion, making it the third-largest cost of the war.

The interest costs, totaling $530 billion, from borrowing money to pay for the war, make up the effort’s second-biggest expense.

The study said that the US has also spent $296 billion to care for veterans of the Afghanistan war.

The State Department’s own OCO war budget cost $59 billion, according to the report.

But these costs are not yet done accumulating. The Watson Institute said its analysis did not include the costs of lifetime care for war veterans or future interest payments on money the US borrowed for the war.

The report estimates that up to 241,000 people died in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a direct result of the war.

The war cost the lives of 2,442 US troops, six DoD civilians, 3,936 US contractors, and 1,144 allied troops, the report states. Between 66,000 and 69,000 Afghan national military members and police, as well as another 9,314 Pakistani troops and police, also died.

More than 71,000 civilians – roughly 47,000 in Afghanistan and 24,000 in Pakistan – died, according to the report. And more than 51,000 opposition fighters died in Afghanistan, as did another roughly 33,000 in Pakistan.

The report said that about 136 journalists and media workers, and 549 humanitarian workers, also died in the war.

– Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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Bernie Sanders expresses ‘serious concerns’ over Biden proposal for modest increase in Pentagon spending

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Sen. Bernie Sanders said he has “serious concerns” about the Biden administration’s defense spending proposal.

  • The Biden administration is asking Congress for $753 billion to fund US military operations.
  • That’s a slight uptick over last year.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said he has “serious concerns” about spending money on a “bloated Pentagon.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration is requesting $753 billion in spending on the US military in its first, $1.5 trillion budget blueprint, disappointing progressives and prompting “serious concerns” from the chairman of the Senate committee that will ultimately decide just how much to appropriate.

In a proposal released Friday, the White House requested a 1.7% increase in national security spending, including $715 billion for the Department of Defense. Accounting for inflation, that is roughly the same amount that Congress approved in 2020.

But liberal Democrats had been hoping for more. Last year, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushed for a 10% cut in defense spending, arguing that the money – over half of US discretionary spending – could be put to better use funding social programs, especially amid a pandemic.

‘A budget is about priorities’

Sen. Bernie Sanders said the request bothered him.

“I have serious concerns,” Sanders, an independent from Vermont who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement Friday. “At a time when the US already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that currently exists in the Pentagon.”

That concern was echoed by Sanders’ liberal colleague, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February.

“A budget is about priorities, and we continue to overinvest in defense while underinvesting in public health and so much more that would keep us safe and that would save lives,” Warren said.

That comment came during questioning of Dr. Kathleen Hicks, the Biden administration’s pick for deputy secretary of defense. Hicks, for her part, said the Pentagon could get by on less money, but that would require “hard choices” the White House does not appear willing to tackle in its first spending proposal.

In 2020, the Pentagon failed its audit for the third year in a row. It does not expect to pass a comprehensive review of its assets until at least 2027.

Biden administration defends proposal

A White House official, speaking on background with reporters on Friday, sought to assuage progressive critics.

“A large chunk of that increase is to pay for the pay raise for men and women in uniform and the civilians that support them,” they said.

According to the federal formula for military pay increases, service members should expect a 2.7% increase in their salary, the Military Times reported last December.

The Biden administration will release a more detailed spending proposal in the coming months.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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