WASHINGTON -- The United States will have spent a total of $3.7 trillion on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, costing 225,000 lives and creating 7.8 million refugees, by the time the conflicts end, according to a report released on Wednesday by Brown University.
The report, written by more than 20 economists, political scientists, lawyers, anthropologists and humanitarian personnel for Brown's Watson Institute for International Studies, gives staggering estimates for the cost of military action in those three countries. Nearly ten years since U.S. troops first entered Afghanistan, the report estimates the final cost of all three conflicts will be between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion -- far higher than the $1 trillion price tag referenced by President Barack Obama earlier this year. The report estimates the U.S. government has already spent between $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion and will spend at least a trillion more over the next fifty years.
In a video op-ed exclusive to HuffPost, some of the report's authors explained the high costs -- both past and future -- of the wars.
Long-term obligations to war veterans will cause the price tag of the conflicts to climb for decades after troops have returned home. The report puts the cost of health care for veterans at between $600 to $950 billion, not peaking until the 2050s.
"Wars, in a sense, are never over when they're over," Catherine Lutz, a Brown University anthropologist, said in the video op-ed. "They go on for decades, and the peak costs for this war will be incurred forty years from now."
Because the wars have had no true front-lines, there have been a huge number of injuries, primarily to young people serving in the military. There has been a particularly large amount of casualties in Pakistan, the report says.
"The costs have been borne unevenly," Lutz said. "The military families, contractor families, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, have borne a tremendous cost."
Even just paying the interest on the United States' war debt will be a large endeavor, according to the report, at a time when the country is set to exceed its current debt limit of $14.29 trillion. The government has already paid about $185 billion in interest on war spending, and could accrue another $1 trillion -- an amount not included in the $3.7 trillion estimate -- in interest by 2020, according to the report.
"We have borrowed virtually all of the money that has been used to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and that has been very expensive, adding at least $1.5 trillion to our national debt," Linda Bilmes, an economist with Harvard University, said in the video op-ed.
Now the country is at a decision point, aligned with the current showdown over a deal to raise the debt ceiling by August.
"There is immense and urgent requirement to learn from the experience of the past decade and to try to ensure we don't make the same mistakes all over again," Andrew Bacevich, a Boston University military historian and veteran, said in the video.