Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Summary of Findings

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

  • At least 940,000 people have died due to direct war violence, including armed forces on all sides of the conflicts, contractors, civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers.  

  • Over 432,000 civilians have been killed in direct violence by all parties to these conflicts.

  • 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.

  • Over 7,050 U.S. soldiers have died in the wars.

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

  • Many deaths and injuries among U.S. contractors have not been reported as required by law, but it is likely that approximately 8,189 have been killed. 

  • 38 million people have been displaced by the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines.

  • The U.S. government is conducting counterterror activities in 78 countries, vastly expanding this war across the globe.

  • The post-9/11 wars have contributed significantly to climate change. The Defense Department is one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.
  • 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 U.S. veterans’ care, not peaking until mid-century.

  • Most U.S. government funding of reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan has 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 of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and elsewhere totals about $8 trillion. This does not include future interest costs on borrowing for the wars.

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

  • U.S. policymakers scarcely considered alternatives to war in the aftermath of 9/11 or in debating the invasion of Iraq. Some of those alternative paradigms for addressing the problem of terror attacks are still available to the U.S.

  • Post-9/11, the increasing rates of suicide for both veterans and active duty personnel are outpacing those of the general population — an alarming shift, as suicide rates among service members have historically been lower than suicide rates among the general population. At least four times as many active duty personnel and war veterans of post-9/11 conflicts have died of suicide than in combat.

  • READ MORE about the costs of U.S.-led war in Iraq since 2003