Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Civilians Killed & Wounded

A woman walks past the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad Jan. 29, 2007. A bomb in a small bus killed one civilian and wounded five others, police said. (REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz)

The U.S. post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and Pakistan have taken a tremendous human toll on those countries. As of September 2021, an estimated 432,093 civilians in these countries have died violent deaths as a result of the wars. As of May 2023, an estimated 3.6-3.8 million people have died indirectly in post-9/11 war zones. The total death toll in these war zones could be at least 4.5-4.7 million and counting, though the precise mortality figure remains unknown. Civilian deaths have also resulted from U.S. post-9/11 military operations in Somalia and other countries.

People living in the war zones have been killed in their homes, in markets, and on roadways. They have been killed by bombs, bullets, fire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and drones. Civilians die at checkpoints, as they are run off the road by military vehicles, when they step on mines or cluster bombs, as they collect wood or tend to their fields, and when they are kidnapped and executed for purposes of revenge or intimidation. They are killed by the United States, by its allies, and by insurgents and sectarians in the civil wars spawned by the invasions.

War can also lead to death weeks or months after battles. Many times more people in the warzones have died as a result of battered infrastructure and poor health conditions arising from the wars than directly from its violence. For example, war refugees often lose access to a stable food supply or to their jobs, resulting in increased malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.

The Costs of War reports document the direct and indirect toll that war takes on civilians and their livelihoods, including the lingering effects of war death and injury on survivors and their families.

Key Findings

  • 432,093 civilians have died violent deaths as a direct result of the U.S. post-9/11 wars.

  • An estimated 3.6-3.8 million people have died indirectly in post-9/11 war zones, bringing the total death toll to at least 4.5-4.7 million and counting.

  • More than 7.6 million children under five in post-9/11 war zones are suffering from acute malnutrition
  • War deaths from malnutrition and a damaged health system and environment likely far outnumber deaths from combat.


  • The U.S. government should include civilian deaths and injuries in public reporting of war deaths, including a tally of children killed.
  • The U.S. government should do a more comprehensive and thorough job investigating allegations of civilian deaths that result from its drone strikes.

(Page updated as of August 2023)