The last soldiers of the United States army departed from Kabul on Monday night. With the end of the evacuation operation, the longest war in US history came to an end. The 20-year-long conflict claimed the lives of over 230,000 people on both sides. According to Brown University, the economic cost of the war exceeded $ 2 trillion.
Tuesday is the first day since October 2001 that there is not a single American soldier on the territory of Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan, launched in response to the 9/11 attacks, began with the invasion and overthrow of the Taliban regime who sheltered the terrorists and ended with their return to power and control of the largest area of the country than ever before.
The exact balance sheet of the conflict is not clear. According to scientists at Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, which track and estimate all the casualties of the war in Afghanistan, the number of deaths exceeds 237 thousandof which approximately 75,000 are members of the security forces, 84,000 – fighters of the Taliban and other anti-government forces, 78,000 – civilian casualties. According to the United Nations, at least 2.5 million refugees have left Afghanistan.
Casualties on the side of the international coalition
In total, over 800,000 American soldiers served in Afghanistan, of which 2,365 were killed. 3,846 civilian contract workers also died, 1,144 soldiers of the international ISAF coalition, including 44 Polesand 444 employees of non-governmental organizations.
The vast majority of casualties among US and coalition soldiers died in the first decade of the war. In 2014, President Barack Obama formally announced the end of the war and the combat mission of the US troops, which was associated with the initiation of the process of troop reduction and the transfer of responsibility for defense to Afghan forces. In practice, however, they still largely relied on US support, although Afghan troops began to record most of the losses.
The US military involvement in Afghanistan was a huge cost for America, not only in terms of the number of soldiers killed, but also wounded. In Afghanistan, 20.6 thousand soldiers were injured. Moreover, according to estimates by Brown University, as much as over 30,000 soldiers and veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq committed suicide.
Economic costs of the mission in Afghanistan
The economic cost was also significant – according to the report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) of 2021, only $ 837 billion was directly spent on hostilities, while an additional 145 billion was spent on Afghanistan’s reconstruction projects. Meanwhile, according to Brown’s estimates, the total total cost of engagement was $ 2.26 trillion. About 83 billion dollars was the cost of arming and training the Afghan army.
– It cannot be denied that this war was a huge waste – Col. Christopher Kolenda, a war veteran, former adviser to the Pentagon chief and US commanders, and currently an expert at the Center for New American Security (CNAS) think-tank. – This is not even a subjective assessment – it is actually an official assessment contained in subsequent SIGAR reports – he added.
The latest 11th report by SIGAR, an institution established to oversee US efforts in Afghanistan, published in August, indicates, inter alia, the lack of a clear strategy and goals for the US presence throughout the war, the conflicting actions of civilian and military elements of the mission, corruption and the weakness of the US-built Afghan forces. “The process of withdrawing forces has shown how empty the alleged progress (of building the Afghan military – ed.) Was empty,” says the document. “If the goal was to rebuild and leave a country that would survive with little threat to US national security interests, the overall picture is grim,” reads the conclusions drawn before the Taliban took over the country.
However, the document states that progress has been made on human rights and the standard of living during the US presence, which is reflected, inter alia, in an increase in life expectancy or a decrease in child mortality.
“We wasted too much time, money and blood”
According to official statistics, the US and its coalition partners have trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers. However, as one SIGAR report pointed out, the numbers were artificially “puffed up” as a way for Afghan commanders to collect US funds for soldiers’ salaries. “Throughout the war, we did not manage to develop institutions that would produce a talented cadre of commanders,” admitted Jonathan Schroden, an expert from the CNA think-tank, who visited Afghanistan many times and prepared reports, inter alia, for the Pentagon on the situation in the country.
– Regardless of how long we would stay in the country, whether it would be another year or 10, it would not change much. We have wasted too much time, money and blood, ‘he added.
Main photo source: US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla / EPA / PAP