Costs of America’s Longest War: Thousands of Lives, Billions of Dollars


US military planes transported the last US servicemen and diplomats from Kabul airport, ending America’s longest war.

Ordinary Americans followed the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan closely, as they did at the start of the war almost 20 years ago, in the weeks following the September 11 attacks. But Americans often tended to forget about the war in Afghanistan in between, and it was noticeably less overseen by Congress than the Vietnam War.

The war death toll for Afghans and Americans and their NATO allies is in the tens of thousands, and generations of Americans to come will pay the cost, in the trillions of dollars.

Here’s a look at the US-waged war in Afghanistan, in numbers, as the last Americans deployed there left.

Much of the data below comes from Linda Bilmes of Harvard University’s Kennedy School and the Brown University War Costs Project. Since the United States between 2003 and 2011 fought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously, and many American troops toured both wars, some figures, as shown, cover both American wars after the 11th. September.

The longest war

Percentage of the American population born since the 2001 attacks planned by the leaders of Al-Qaida who had taken refuge in Afghanistan: About 1 in 4.

The human cost

Afghan civilians killed, until April: 47 245

American soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 2,461

American subcontractors, until April: 3,846

The Afghan National Army and Police, until April: 66,000

Other members of the Allied forces, including other NATO member states, until April: 1,144.

The Taliban and other opposition fighters, until April: 51,191

Aid workers, until April: 444

Journalists, until April: 72

Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of US occupation

Percentage decline in infant mortality rate since the United States, Afghans and other allied forces overthrew the Taliban government, which had sought to restrict women and girls in the home: around 50.

Percentage of Afghan adolescent girls able to read today: 37

Percentage of Afghans with access to electricity in 2005: 22

In 2019: 98.

A few days before the US withdrawal that the Taliban regained control: 15

Control by Congress

Date on which Congress authorized American forces to prosecute the culprits in the attacks of September 11, 2001: September 18, 2001

Number of times U.S. lawmakers have voted to declare war on Afghanistan: 0

Number of times lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee have addressed the costs of the Vietnam War, during this conflict: 42

Number of times lawmakers on the same subcommittee mentioned the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, up to mid-summer 2021: 5

Number of times lawmakers on the Senate Finance Committee have mentioned the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from September 11, 2001 through mid-summer 2021: 1

Pay for a war on credit, not cash

Amount that President Harry Truman temporarily raised the highest tax rates to pay for the Korean War: 92%

Amount President Lyndon Johnson temporarily raised the highest tax rates to pay for the Vietnam War: 77%

Amount President George W. Bush lowered the tax rates of the richest, rather than increasing them, at the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: At least 8%

Estimated amount of direct costs of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq that the United States financed through debt as of 2020: 2,000 billion dollars

Estimated interest costs by 2050: Up to $ 6.5 trillion

The end of wars. Costs don’t

Amount Bilmes estimates that the United States will pay in health, disability, burial and other costs for approximately 4 million veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq: over $ 2,000 billion

Period during which these costs will peak: after 2048


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