Astronomic costs of the Iraq war

2011-12-18 09:27

Washington - From the tens of thousands killed and wounded to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in eight years of conflict, the cost of the Iraq war is astronomic and still growing.

Human cost

Since the US invasion in March 2003, at least 126 000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war, according to Boston University professor Neta Crawford. In addition, another 20 000 Iraqi soldiers and police were killed, along with more than 19 000 insurgents. British group puts the number of documented Iraqi civilian deaths from violence at 104 035 to 113 680.

For the US-led coalition, the Pentagon says the United States lost 4 474 troops, of which 3 518 died in combat. This figure is by far the highest of an invading coalition country. Britain was next, with 179 troops killed, according to the Defence Ministry. Nearly 32 000 American troops were also wounded.

In November, 187 Iraqis were killed by violence, including 112 civilians, 42 policemen and 33 soldiers. This figure compares to 2 087 people killed in January 2007. By comparison, 2 045 people were killed in the first nine months of 2011. These are all according to figures released monthly by the Iraqi ministries of health, interior and defence.

And the United Nations estimates that 1.75 million Iraqis were made refugees by the war, forced to flee to neighbouring countries or to displace their families to other parts of the country.

Troops deployed

At the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 150 000 US troops were stationed in Iraq, supported by 120 000 forces operating outside of the country. Roughly 40 000 British troops were deployed as well during the course of the war.

The US troop presence reached 165 000 at the end of 2006 before President George W Bush decided on a "surge" of 30 000 reinforcements in a bid to counter spiralling violence.

In September 2010, the US combat mission officially ended and 50 000 American troops remained on the ground to advise and train Iraqi forces as part of the newly dubbed "Operation New Dawn". The last of those US troops have now left Iraq.

Financial cost

The Pentagon has spent nearly $770bn since 2003 on operations in Iraq. Categorized as overseas contingency operations, the sum is treated separately from the main defence budget, which has also included some funds for the Iraq war.

The World Bank estimates that Iraq's GDP fell by 41% in 2003.

The Iraq war and reconstruction is also projected to have cost US taxpayers $256m per day from 2003 to 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Any accounting of the war's price tag also has to include billions in US civilian aid to Iraq, as well as the cost of care provided to wounded soldiers and veterans.

US government statistics do not distinguish between veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, as a large number of the 1.25 million veterans were deployed to both wars.

By the end of 2010, the United States had already spent nearly $32bn on medical treatment for wounded troops and payments for disability pensions, a benefit veterans receive for life.

The future cost of medical care and pensions for veterans will grow exponentially in coming decades. Linda Bilmes, professor at Harvard University, estimates that pensions through 2055 for veterans will reach $346bn to $469bn, mainly due to health care costs.

Other losses

Around 60% of the Iraqi National Archives, equivalent to tens of millions of documents, went missing, were damaged or were destroyed as a result of water leaks and a fire at a storage centre in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, according to INA director Saad Iskander.

Read more on:    us  |  iraq  |  war

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