August 14, 2022 Editor

In Afghanistan, a legacy of U.S. failure endures

By Ishaan Tharoor with Sammy Westfall

August 14, 2022

image above: A crying Afghan woman begs for help from US troops.

WN: In America’s Final Afghanistan Price Tag: $2.261 Trillion, we read:

America spent $2.261 trillion on the War in Afghanistan.

According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute, the United States federal government spent $933 billion on war operations, $443 billion on war-related increases to the Defense Department’s budget, $59 billion on increases to the State Department’s budget, and $296 billion on caring for Afghanistan veterans — not to mention $530 billion for paying interest on war borrowing.

The Costs of War Project also estimates that 241,000 people have died as a direct result of this war. These figures do not include deaths caused by disease, loss of access to food, water, infrastructure, and/or other indirect consequences of the war.

The figures for Afghanistan are part of the larger costs of the U.S. post-9/11 wars, which extend to Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere.

In The Costs of Post-9/11 Wars Exceed $8 Trillion for U.S., Boston Globe, we read:

In just 20 years, the total cost of the US increasing homeland security and waging wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere since Sept. 11, 2001, have exceeded $8 trillion, according to new estimates by the Costs of War Project at Brown University.

What was the human toll of the wars?

  • At least 387,072 civilians died due to direct war violence. This does not include the nearly 301,933 opposition fighters killed. Others include about 680 journalists and 892 humanitarian aid workers who were killed as a direct result of war.
  • Approximately 7,052 members of the US military were killed as a direct impact from the post-Sept. 11 wars. That does not include the 8,189 US contractors, 21 defense department civilian workers, or the 204,645 to 207,845 national military or police killed.
  • All together, about 929,000 people were killed from the post-Sept. 11 wars, which is an increase from previous estimates of 801,000.

Still more, COMMON DREAMS: Pentagon Contractors in Afghanistan Pocketed $108 Billion Over 20 Years. We read:

Based on [Heidi Peltier, director of programs for the Costs of War Project at Brown Univesity’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs]’s review of public contracting databases— and the Federal Procurement Data System—just over a dozen U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contractors got more than $44 billion, or about 41% of the almost $108 billion, from 2002 to this year.

SIGAR, in its quarterly report to Congress this past January, “conservatively estimated nearly 30% of U.S. appropriations for Afghanistan reconstruction from 2009 to 2019 was lost to waste, fraud, and abuse.” The Pentagon was responsible for the bulk of that spending.

In a statement Tuesday, Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War Project, put Peltier’s findings about Pentagon contractor spending into a broader context.

“One hundred billion is an enormous amount of money, but it’s also just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the full costs of the post-9/11 wars,” Savell noted. “Nearly a million people have lost their lives in these wars and U.S. taxpayers have paid over $2.3 trillion for the war in Afghanistan alone—and over $8 trillion total for the post-9/11 wars in other places as well.”

“It’s shocking,” she said, “that the U.S. government hasn’t had a serious reckoning with the U.S. militarized counterterrorism model and its human and financial costs over the past two decades.”

For a heartbreaking story by , photos by Lorenzo Tugnoli, August 12, 2022, see: A year of peace in one of Afghanistan’s deadliest provinces.

Looking back, one might ask:

What was that all about?

American public intellectual Edward Said wrote in the Preface of Orientalism (1978):

Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn’t trust the evidence of one’s eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest ‘mission civilisatrice.’

Looking forward, one might ask with Pete Seeger: When will they/we ever learn?

As the Fellowship of Reconciliation expresses it in Seeds of Peace, p. 146:

Love, as revealed and interpreted in the life and death of Jesus Christ, involves more than we have yet seen, and is the only power by which evil can be overthrown and the only sufficient basis for human society.

Indeed: When will we ever learn?



A year ago, the Taliban captured Kabul, capping the dramatic fall of Afghanistan’s fragile U.S.-backed government. America’s longest war ended in ignominy and tragedy. The Islamist militants that had been chased from power in 2001 were back in command and the legacy of two decades of U.S.-led state-building and counterinsurgency that had drained more than $1 trillion from U.S. taxpayers and cost the lives of more than 3,500 U.S. and allied soldiers — and tens of thousands more Afghan troops and civilians — hung excruciatingly in the balance.

Hours after the world watched the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans desperately tried to flee the victorious Taliban advance, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government ombudsman, issued a report on 20 years of U.S. efforts in the country. It was grim reading: “If the goal was to rebuild and leave behind a country that can sustain itself and pose little threat to U.S. national security interests, the overall picture is bleak,” the report noted.

Billions of dollars in American and foreign aid may have been siphoned into boondoggles for corrupt Afghan officials and opportunistic U.S. military contractors. While the threat of extremist al-Qaeda militants operating on Afghan land was largely rooted out, ordinary Afghan civilians saw their country’s security situation grow more precarious amid constant terrorist bombings and attacks. A branch of the Islamic State found fertile soil in Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. And years of American efforts to shore up a fledgling Afghan government and train its new army did little to prevent its sudden and total collapse.As a result, a generation’s worth of fitful progress in advancing women’s education was derailed, with the Taliban reneging on earlier assurances that they would allow all schoolgirls to return to classes. Surging poverty has led to impoverished families selling their daughters as child brides. Tens of thousands of Afghans who assisted U.S. and international forces remain stuck in the country, vulnerable to a regime that sees them as having collaborated with foreign occupiers.

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

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Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.