Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Summary of Findings

Some of the Costs of War Project’s main findings include:

  • 370,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers.  

  • It is likely that many times more than 370,000 people have died indirectly in these wars, due to malnutrition, damaged infrastructure, and environmental degradation.

  • 200,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.

  • Over 6,800 US soldiers have died in the wars.

  • We do not know the full extent of how many US service members returning from these wars became injured or ill while deployed.

  • Many deaths and injuries among US contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that at least 6,900 have been killed. 

  • 10.1 million million Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani people are living as war refugees and internally displaced persons, in grossly inadequate conditions.*

  • The US has made an estimated 76 drone strikes in Yemen, making the US arguably at war in that country.  

  • The wars have been accompanied by erosions in civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.

  • The human and economic costs of these wars will continue for decades with some costs, such as the financial costs of US veterans’ care, not peaking until mid-century.

  • US government funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has totaled over $170 billion. Most of those funds have gone towards arming security forces in both countries. Much of the money allocated to humanitarian relief and rebuilding civil society has been lost to fraud, waste, and abuse.

  • The cost for the Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan wars totals about $4.8 trillion. This does not include future interest costs on borrowing for the wars, which will add an estimated $8 trillion through 2054.

  • The ripple effects on the US economy have also been significant, including job loss and interest rate increases.

  • Both Iraq and Afghanistan continue to rank extremely low in global studies of political freedom.

  • Women in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded from political power and experience high rates of unemployment and war widowhood.

  • Compelling alternatives to war were scarcely considered in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the discussion about war against Iraq. Some of those alternatives are still available to the US.


    * Source: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) (2015).