Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

US & Allied Killed

The number of United States troops who have died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had passed 6,800 at the beginning of 2015.

They died in a host of ways. The causes of death include rocket-propelled grenade fire and the improvised explosive devices that have been responsible for roughly half of all deaths and injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their deaths were also the result of vehicle crashes, electrocutions, heatstroke, friendly fire, and suicides in theater.

Official Pentagon numbers do not include the many troops who return home and kill themselves as a result of psychological wounds such as PTSD. The DOD does not report suicides among non-active duty reservists. However, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released data on suicides among all veterans, in a comprehensive February 2013 report. The VA issued a public statement that it is using this data in order to implement rigorous suicide prevention measures.

The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have also produced fatalities among large numbers of private contract workers. A full and accurate accounting of contractor deaths has not yet been done by the Pentagon. Over 6,900 contractors working for the US have been killed in the two war zones. The true number is likely much larger: the majority of US contractors are the citizens of other countries, many of whose deaths appear not to have been reported.


Key Findings

  • Over 6,800 US service members and over 6,900 contractors have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • An unusually high percentage of young veterans have died since returning home, many as a result of drug overdoses, vehicle crashes, or suicide.

  • Coalition partners have died in large numbers: approximately 43,000 uniformed Afghans, Iraqis and other allies have died as of May 2014.

Recommendations

  • The Pentagon and US State Department should record and make public all deaths and injuries in the war zones, including those of US troops, contractors (US and foreign citizens), civilians, and opposition fighters.

  • The Pentagon and the VA should expand their tracking of war-related post-deployment deaths (including suicides), injuries, and illnesses of service members regardless of whether they receive VA treatment.

  • These data should be consolidated, methodologically transparent, and easily accessible.  

(Page updated as of February 2015)