The Stunning Amount The United States Spent On The Afghanistan War

In one of the most disgustingly inhumane acts to recently come out of the U.S. military's occupation of Afghanistan, Erik Prince, head of private military contractor Blackwater, announced toward the end of August that he planned to charge $6,500 per person for flights out of Kabul, per Business Insider. Like gold-guzzling villains pulled straight from capitalist dystopian fiction, he and other private military companies and defense contractors have made literal billions off of the U.S.'s "extended military engagement" (not an icky "war," as Time outlines) in the Middle East. Meanwhile, as of 2019, 150,000 were left dead in Afghanistan, including over 43,000 civilians, journalists, and NGO workers (Brown University has a full breakdown). And in the entire region, including Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and more? Over 800,000.

When President Biden announced the long-overdue withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan last April, as the BBC records, only the naïve could have envisioned anything but a terrible end to a terrible, 20-year conflict. Not ever the camo-dressed liberators of the sands, the U.S. military in 2017 steered further toward the imprecision of drone strikes, as Brown University states. Rules of engagement changed. There were evermore instances of "collateral damage," i.e., civilians being killed.

In the end, the funding for this havoc and bloodshed — which could have been invested in healthcare, education, social welfare, clean energy, infrastructure, or countless other initiatives — cost American taxpayers $300 million every day, as Forbes says. That's over $2 trillion for 20 years.

$2 trillion over 20 years of war and waste

Over $2 trillion over 20 years, or $300 million per day. Or as Forbes says, that's "$50,000 for each of Afghanistan's 40 million people." It's more than "Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and the 30 richest billionaires in America" combined. If that isn't mind-shattering enough, the details are exasperating beyond belief.

Newsweek offers some highlights. A mere 1% of Afghanistan's rocky mountainscape is forested, yet Afghan national officials wanted forest camouflage. This cost $28 million, or 25 cents per American. Since 2008, $8 billion was spent on buildings and vehicles, but only about 10% of that remains in good condition. Back in 2013, as Business Insider recalls, the Chinese government recovered a crash-landed UH-60 Black Hawk used during Operation Neptune's Spear, when Seal Team Six assassinated Osama bin Laden. In 2018, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that around $15 billion of government funds were "wasted, used fraudulently, or otherwise abused." All in all, these kinds of bungles resulted in $83 billion lost.

On top of these, the numbers for direct combat equal about $800 billion. The cost for training the Afghan army, mowed down in less than a month by the Taliban, equaled $85 billion. And now, as stated, military contractors like Erik Prince want $6,500 per person for the right to evacuate. When considering the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and countless opportunities for investments, the loss becomes far too much to bear.