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16 August 2021updated 04 Sep 2021 12:06pm

How much did the Afghanistan war cost the US?

Official estimates show the war cost $1trn but unoffiical figures suggest the real figure was more than double that. 

By Aisha Majid

Twenty years since America invaded Afghanistan, official government data shows the war has cost the US around $1trn. Between the fiscal years of 2002 and 2020, official counts of total military expenditure in Afghanistan by the US Department of Defense totalled $824bn, while spending on reconstruction by various agencies including the state department came to $131bn. 

Official counts put the cost of the US’ war in Afghanistan at $1trn
Cost to the US ($ bn), fiscal years 2002 – 2020
Source: US Department of Defense; US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

Unofficial estimates, however, suggest the bill is much higher. The Costs of War project by researchers at Brown University in Rhode Island estimates that between 2001 and 2021 the war cost the US $2.26trn. Their estimate includes the bill for operations in Pakistan, war debt and support supplied to veterans, which are excluded from official tallies. 

Following the US’s invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, troop numbers in the country grew over the decade, peaking at around 140,000 in 2011 under President Obama. Numbers dropped again after the US surge.

In April this year, Biden announced that the US would withdraw completely from Afghanistan by September 2021, although the plan to bring US troops home was first announced by Donald Trump as part of his “America First” foreign policy. 

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