Comment by Jim Campbell
August 16th, 2021
The question should not be how much did it cost but why our tax dollars were spent on this task in the first place.
Afghanistan: What has the conflict cost the US and its allies?
Getty image caption US forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001
With the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and the takeover by the Taliban, we look at how much the US and its Nato allies have spent in the country in 20 years of military operations.
What forces were sent in?
The US invaded in October 2001 to oust the Taliban, whom they said were harbouring Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda figures linked to the 9/11 attacks.
US troop numbers grew as Washington poured in billions of dollars to fight a Taliban insurgency and fund reconstruction, peaking at about 110,000 in 2011.
Last year, there were just 4,000 US troops.
Other countries were also part of the foreign troop presence in the country, including other members of the Nato alliance.[Source]
But the US had by far the biggest single contingent.
Nato formally ended its combat mission in December 2014, but kept a 13,000-strong force there to help train Afghan forces and support counter-terrorism operations.
There have also been significant numbers of private security contractors in Afghanistan. This included as of the last quarter of 2020 more than 7,800 US citizens, according to US Congress research.
How much money has been spent?
The vast majority of spending in Afghanistan has come from the US.
Between 2010 to 2012, when the US for a time had more than 100,000 soldiers in the country, the cost of the war grew to almost $100bn a year, according to US government figures.
As the US military shifted its focus away from offensive operations and concentrated more on training up Afghan forces, costs fell sharply.
By 2018 annual expenditure was around $45bn, a senior Pentagon official told the US Congress that year.
According to the US Department of Defense, the total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until September 2019) had reached $778bn.
In addition, the US state department – along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other government agencies – spent $44bn on reconstruction projects.
That brings the total cost – based on official data – to $822bn between 2001 and 2019, but it doesn’t include any spending in Pakistan, which the US uses as a base for Afghan-related operations.
According to a Brown University study in 2019, which has looked at war spending in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US had spent around $978bn (their estimate also includes money allocated for the 2020 fiscal year).
The study notes that it is difficult to assess the overall cost because accounting methods vary between government departments, and they also change over time, leading to different overall estimates.
The UK and Germany – who had the largest numbers of troops in Afghanistan after the US – spent an estimated $30bn and $19bn respectively over the course of the war.
Despite pulling out nearly all their troops, the US and Nato have promised a total of $4bn a year until 2024 to fund Afghanistan’s own forces.
So far this year, Nato has sent $72m worth of supplies and equipment to Afghanistan.
Where has the money gone?
The bulk of the money spent in Afghanistan has been on counter-insurgency operations, and on the needs of troops such as food, clothing, medical care, special pay and benefits.
Official data shows that since 2002, the US has also spent about $143.27bn on reconstruction activities in Afghanistan.
More than half ($88.32bn) was spent on building up Afghan security forces, including the Afghan National Army and police force.
Nearly $36bn has been allocated for governance and development, while smaller amounts were also allocated for anti-drug efforts and for humanitarian aid.
Some of this money has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse over the years.
In a report to the US Congress in October 2020, the watchdog responsible for the oversight of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan estimated that about $19bn had been lost this way between May 2009 and December 31, 2019.
What about the human cost?
Since the war against the Taliban began in 2001, there have been more than 3,500 coalition deaths, of which more than 2,300 have been US soldiers.
More than 450 UK troops have died.
A further 20,660 US soldiers have been injured in action.
But these casualty figures are dwarfed by the loss of life among Afghan security forces and civilians.
President Ghani said in 2019 that more than 45,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed since he became president five years earlier.
Brown University’s research in 2019 estimated the loss of life amongst the national military and police in Afghanistan to be more than 64,100 since October 2001, when the war began.
And according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), nearly 111,000 civilians have been killed or injured since it began systematically recording civilian casualties in 2009.