20 years of ‘war on terror’ have caused nearly a million deaths, says report

The overall estimate of the monetary cost of the war goes beyond USD 8 trillion by the US alone. Its allies, including the UK, Australia, and Germany, would have spent a greater amount collectively

September 02, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US-led war on terror has killed almost a million people and cost USD 8 trillion in the last 20 years, says a report published on Wednesday, September 1, by the Brown University’s Cost of War project. The report points out that though foreign troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan, US taxpayers will continue to bear the cost of the war for a long time to come. 

According to the report, a substantial number of people killed during the so-called war on terror were civilians. It estimates that between 897,000 and 929,000 people died in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and other parts of the world. Of the total, at least 387,000 were civilians.

The report highlights that the numbers of the dead in the war are a conservative estimate as the US has adopted a deliberate policy of not counting the dead among its enemies. There are numerous reports contradicting the official death count by foreign forces in various war zones. 

Neta Crawford, co-director of the project and author of the report, said that the number of dead is a gross undercount of the “true toll these wars have taken on human life.” 

The war on terror, which completes two decades this month, started after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon building on September 11, 2001. It began with the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan, and spread to Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and other countries. 

With the Taliban back in power in Afghanistan and the rise of new terror outfits in other parts of the world, the efficacy of this so-called war on terror remains a topic of debate among the strategists and policymakers in the US and abroad, particularly given the costs.  

Forever wars continue  

A similar report published last year indicated that the “forever wars” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Africa caused the displacement of at least 37 million. Even though the US has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and is in the process of withdrawing from Iraq, the war continues in over 80 countries across the world, and it will be so in the near future with president Joe Biden vowing to fight against groups such as ISIS-K and others through drones and other means in Afghanistan and other places. 

Even going by a “conservative” estimate, excluding numerous related expenditures at home and abroad, the US alone has spent USD 2.3 trillion in Afghanistan-Pakistan, USD 2.1 trillion in Iraq and Syria, and over USD 350 billion in Somalia and has an obligation to pay another USD 2.2 trillion for the medical care of the people injured in the war which brings the total cost of war to USD 8 trillion, the report says.

The money spent by dozens of US allies in the war against terror has also not been taken into account. The report says that as a collective, they “would likely have spent more on those wars” than the US. The report has also not counted the money spent on evacuating over 123,000 people from Afghanistan in the last few weeks.  

Another recent report by the National Priorities Project suggests a much higher number. The report titled State of Insecurity : The Cost of Militarization Since 9/11 says since 2001, “The U.S. has spent more than $21 trillion on militarization, surveillance, and repression — all in the name of security.”