Nearly 20 years of war, 10 days to fall: Afghanistan, by the numbers

The United States has spent an estimated $2,261,000,000,000, or more than $2 trillion, on the war effort.

A military member places a flag during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on May 27, 2021, in Arlington, Va. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

President Biden struck a defiant tone as he defended the withdrawal of American troops after the Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of Afghanistan. “I stand squarely behind my decision,” the president told the nation in a televised address from the White House on Monday.

Still, Biden acknowledged the “gut-wrenching” images emerging from the country where the United States has fought its longest foreign war. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” he said.

Here is a close look at the cost in lives, dollars and resources spent in Afghanistan over the last two decades.


This is the year the United States launched the war in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom began Oct. 7, 2001, as part of President George W. Bush’s wider war against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.


The year the war officially ended. On Dec. 28, U.S. and NATO military officials held a ceremony at their headquarters in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to mark the occasion. President Barack Obama, in a statement announcing a troop drawdown, called it “a milestone for our country” and said the United States was now safer and more secure.


The number of years U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan, making it America’s longest military engagement. Thousands of U.S. and NATO troops remained on the ground after 2014 in smaller numbers, after passing security responsibility of the country to Afghan national forces. Foreign troops have since helped train and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions.


That’s the number of U.S. military troops still in Kabul as of Thursday, according to a Pentagon news briefing. The Biden administration said this past weekend that it was sending additional troops to Afghanistan to help partially evacuate the U.S. Embassy and ensure a safe withdrawal from the country.


The number of U.S. presidents who have presided over the Afghan war.


The number of American service members who have served in Afghanistan since October 2001, according to the Defense Department.

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The number of U.S. military members who have died in Afghanistan as of this month, per the Defense Department. The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, SIGAR, puts this figure slightly higher, at 2,443 dead.


The number of American service members who have been wounded in the war effort, per the Defense Department. SIGAR puts this figure at 20,666.


The estimated number of Afghan military and national police killed in the conflict, according to a report calculating the costs of the war by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs from April, though there is uncertainty about the true number.


The number of Afghan civilians killed, per Brown University’s Costs of War project. In the first half of 2021 alone, there were 1,659 Afghan civilians killed and 3,524 wounded — a 47 percent increase compared with the same period last year — the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported.

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The number of countries including NATO and partner nations that have fought in the Afghanistan war.


The number of allied service members, including from other NATO member states, who have died in Afghanistan as of April, according to Brown University.


The number of humanitarian aid workers killed in the conflict as of April, per Brown.


The number of journalists and media workers killed in the country between 2001 and this year, per the Committee to Protect Journalists.


The estimated number of anti-government opposition fighters in Afghanistan killed, though an exact figure has never been released, per Brown.


Men, women and children killed in the 9/11 attacks, according to the National September 11 Memorial Museum.


The total ongoing cost to the United States of the Afghan war is more than $2 trillion, per Brown, which includes operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It includes some reconstruction costs but not future obligations toward lifetime care for American veterans or future interest payments on money borrowed to fund the war. A 2021 report by SIGAR, citing the Defense Department, said the United States had spent some $837 billion on warfighting alone.


The amount the United States has provided to implement reconstruction programs in Afghanistan since 2002 is more than $145 billion, according to SIGAR. The funds are used for a range of projects including to build the Afghan National Security Forces, promote good governance and engage in counternarcotics efforts.


The number of Afghan military personnel trained by the United States to date. “We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies,” Biden said in an address to the nation Aug. 16, 2021.


The current number of registered Afghan refugees who have fled the country. The real number may be much higher, according to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. As of July 2021, Afghans are the second-largest refugee population in the world, UNHCR said. Iran and Pakistan host nearly 90 percent of displaced Afghans.


An estimate of the number of Afghans internally displaced since the start of 2021, forced to leave their homes and relocate within their own country due to violence and insecurity. UNHCR puts the total uprooted internally at over 3.5 million people.


That’s where Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, falls among 189 countries ranked in the Human Development Index, published by the United Nations Development Program. Afghanistan has an average life expectancy of 64 years, and some 56 percent of its population live in poverty, according to the index.


The number of children in Afghanistan who are out of school, 60 percent of whom are girls, according to UNICEF.


That’s the percentage of Americans who said this week that the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, according to an opinion poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, conducted Aug. 12-16. When the war began in 2001, some 88 percent of Americans supported military action, according to a Gallup poll at the time.


The number of days it took for the Taliban to assume power of the government after massive gains across the country. The Taliban seized its first provincial capital — Zaranj in Nimruz province, on the border with Iran — on Aug. 6. Just days later, by Aug. 15, the Taliban were poised to take control of Kabul.

Read more:

Opinion: Condoleezza Rice: The Afghan people didn’t choose the Taliban. They fought and died alongside us.

Afghanistan’s military collapse: Illicit deals and mass desertions

Taliban shifts focus to governing, but protests and empty coffers pose challenges