Answer: $5.6 Trillion
On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Later on, people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks. In response to the attacks, the “Global War on Terrorism“, an international military campaign, was launched by the United States government. At the time, U.S. president George W. Bush first used the term “war on terrorism” on September 16th, 2001, and then “war on terror” a few days later in a formal speech to Congress. The term was originally used with a particular focus on countries associated with al-Qaeda which, for all intensive purposes related to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan.
It’s no secret that the Global War on Terrorism has not been cheap. In early 2017, the Defense Department estimated that the total cost of the conflicts since the 2001 attacks has amounted to roughly $1.5 trillion. Other estimates put that number much higher, however. According to a new study by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.6 trillion since they began in 2001. The aim of the Watson Institute’s study was to reflect costs the Pentagon doesn’t include in its own calculations since war costs aren’t borne by the Defense Department alone so the comparison isn’t quite apples to apples. For example, the study’s estimates include recurring expenses such as long-term medical care for veterans and war costs incurred by the State Department. Costs also reflect related spending by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others.
At the end of last year, negotiations between the Taliban and the United States began with the help of Pakistan, but as we all know, these wars are far from over. To that point, the Wall Street Journal points out that the cost of “the wars also includes borrowing money to pay for them. According to the study, the accumulated interest expenses on the future cost of borrowing money to pay the wars could add an additional $8 trillion to the national debt over the next several decades.” Keep in mind there are other hotspots as well. Now the United States is assessing and suppressing conflicts from Trans-Sahara (Northern Africa), to the Red Sea, to the Philippines, to Yemen. The big picture is that military and defense spending contributes greatly to our national debt. There are some in the White House including national security adviser John Bolton who called the national debt “a threat to the society” which he said, “ultimately has a national security consequence for it.”
Cover Photo: Soldiers of the Minnesota Guard’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division salute the American flag as the United States anthem is being played during their departure ceremony at historic Fort Snelling May 22, 2011. 1st BCT will be deploying to Kuwait in support of Operation New Dawn.