The cost of war

A new Congressional Research Service report says the Bush administration is spending $9.7 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Published June 27, 2006 4:10PM (EDT)

If we're making so much progress in Iraq, how come the war keeps getting more expensive?

In a new report, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says the U.S. military is now spending about $9.7 billion a month on Iraq and Afghanistan -- about $2 billion a month more than in 2005 and about $4 billion a month more than in 2004. As the National Journal's subscription-only Congress Daily reports, the CRS analysts are "a bit mystified" as to why the costs are increasing so dramatically; operating and maintenance costs, higher gas prices, more body armor and training expenses are all factors, but the analysts say they're not enough to explain the size of the increases they're seeing.

What the analysts do understand: By this time next year, the Bush administration will have spent more than $500 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan, the lion's share of it in the former rather than the latter.

Before the Iraq war began, then White House budget director Mitch Daniels suggested that the total cost would be between $50 billion and $60 billion, and he dismissed an estimate of $200 billion as being at the "upper end of a hypothetical." To his credit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said before the war that the ultimate cost was "not knowable." That's still a pretty accurate description, especially with the president clinging to a timeline-free, stand-up, stand-down policy. But the CRS says that even assuming substantial troop drawdowns in the near future, the cost of the two wars could exceed $800 billion by 2016.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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