How Much Did the Fruitless Afghanistan War Cost?

Published August 16th, 2021 - 03:15 GMT
US soldiers
(JOHN MOOREGETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICAGetty Images via AFP)

A few weeks ago, no one would have imagined that 20 years of work by the US and its NATO allies would go down the drain the moment Taliban militants approached the capital city, Kabul.

For 20 years after the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan, the US and its allies have allocated billions of dollars to maintain their military presence in the country, to end the Taliban's rule, and to ultimately build a strong Afghan state that can withstand challenges after foreign militaries leave. Whether you believe the innocence of these goals or not, there is no doubt that those past 20 years have been quite costly for everyone.

Only a month ago, US President Joe Biden expressed his confidence in the US-trained Afghan military with over 300,000 members, saying that they will be able to defend Afghanistan in the face of future confrontations. Back then, Biden referred to advanced equipment and training that has been offered to the Afghan military as the main reason he "was sure the US withdrawal wouldn't pose a threat".

However, the Taliban has successfully recaptured Afghanistan at a stunning speed, taking over Kabul on Sunday evening.

This unfortunate event has reignited questions over the billions or even trillions of dollars that have been pumped into the war in Afghanistan for 20 years, with almost no gains.

For 20 years, US budgets have included major clauses for military expenses, in addition to ones dedicated to building infrastructure in Afghan cities and provinces. Additional billions were also allocated to major security projects to keep foreign entities protected.

According to a BBC report citing US government figures, the US spent a total of $778 billion in military expenditure from October 2001 until September 2019. Between 2010-2011, while the US had the biggest number of troops in Afghanistan the US budget included around $100 billion for Afghanistan per year. 

The report also highlights a 2019 study by Brown University, which concluded that the US had spent $978 billion between 2001 and 2020.

Considering these huge expenses cut from American taxpayers' money, American officials will very soon be facing questions over the viability of the war and the reasons behind the government taking so long to end it.


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