A new study from a Harvard public policy professor indicates the costs associated with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are a lot higher than initially predicted.
Linda Bilmes, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government, estimates the total “all in” costs of both wars will reach somewhere between $4 trillion and $6 trillion dollars, with the largest expenditures yet to come.
“The single largest accrued liability of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the cost of providing medical care and disability benefits to war veterans,” Bilmes writes. ” Historically, the bill for these costs has come due many decades later.”
Bilmes notes that expenditures for both Korean and Vietnam veterans continues to rise, and that payments for World War I and World War II veterans didn’t peak until, 1969 and 1980, respectively. That’s more than 50 years after their respective conclusions.
In addition to the medical costs, the Pentagon is going to have to replace all the broken-down and destroyed equipment that was lost during the wars.
To top it off, because both wars were financed by borrowing money, the debt service costs associated with them will continue to affect the United States for years to come.
“The decision to finance the war operations entirely through borrowing has already added some $2 trillion to the national debt, contributing about 20 percent of the total national debt added between 2001 and 2012,” Bilmes said. “The US has already paid $260 billion in interest on the war debt. This does not include the interest payable in the future, which will reach into the trillions.”
Bilmes estimates align close to previous studies on the subject, with Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimating it would cost $3 trillion in 2010, and a team of Brown University professors concluding they would cost around $4 trillion.
The price tag associated with the wars, particularly Iraq, is a lot higher than initially predicted. Pre-war estimates showed the war would cost anywhere from $60 billion to $200 billion, at the most. These estimates were based off the idea that the war wouldn’t take more than five months to complete, not the 104 months it actually took.