The Congressional Budget Office released a report yesterday estimating that by 2017, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have cost us up to $2.4 trillion. More than a quarter of that money will go to paying interest on the money we've borrowed to finance the conflict.
The White House, predictably, dismissed the numbers as "speculative." But if you look at what we have already spent, the numbers seem right on target—maybe even low. According to the CBO'S report, the country has spent $604 billion since 2001. The total amount of money requested for 2008 alone is up to $196 billion, nearly a quarter of what's been spent over the past five years. At that rate, we'll sail past $2 trillion by 2014. And that's not counting interest.
The report contains some other interesting reminders as well. Of the $604 billion spent since 2001, only $1.6 billion has been allocated to medical care, disability compensation, and survivor benefits. Only $30 billion has gone to training Iraqi and Afghan security forces. The Army estimates that it will need $12-$13 billion a year from now until at least two years after we leave just to repair its equipment. That's a lot of money, and it seems like even more when you place it in the context of other major wars.
The result of all this vanishing cash, of course, is a severely depleted Army that continues to fight amidst ever-worsening conditions. See our current issue for thoughts on how to break this cycle.