DUBAI – America’s longest war, the two-decade-long conflict in Afghanistan that started in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, killed tens of thousands of people, dogged four U.S. presidents and ultimately proved unwinnable despite its staggering cost in blood and treasure.
This final chapter, with President Joe Biden’s decision to pull all American troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, has prompted a reckoning over the war’s lost lives and colossal expenditure.
Here’s a look at the spiraling cost of America’s campaign — the bloodshed, wasted funds and future consequences for the war-battered nation teetering on the brink of chaos.
THE COST IN LIVES
Afghans have paid the highest price. Since 2001, at least 47,245 civilians have been killed in the war as of mid-April, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University, which documents the hidden costs of the post-9/11 wars.
Gun and bomb attacks targeting civilians surged to previously unseen heights since the intra-Afghan peace negotiations opened in Qatar last fall, according to the U.N. Watchdogs say the conflict has killed a total of 72 journalists and 444 aid workers.
The Afghan government keeps the toll among its soldiers secret to avoid undermining morale, but Costs of War estimates the war has killed 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan troops.
The war has forced 2.7 million Afghans to flee abroad, mostly to Iran, Pakistan and Europe, the U.N. said. Another 4 million are displaced within the country, which has a total population of 36 million.