FACT CHECK: Has The US Spent $7 Trillion On Wars In The Middle East?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump claimed the U.S. has spent $7 trillion in the Middle East at a rally in Florida on Friday.

“We have spent as of two months ago almost $7 trillion in the Middle East,” Trump said. “And you know what we have? We have nothing. It’s worse than it was 17 years ago when they started.”

Trump made similar claims during the 2016 presidential election and in his first months in office, alluding to the cost of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Verdict: False

Studies estimate U.S. spending on wars in the Middle East is high, about $4.4 trillion, but not as high as Trump claims.

Fact Check:

War spending in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria since 2001 is about $4.4 trillion, according to professor Neta Crawford from Brown University’s Costs of War project.

The Department of Defense (DOD) reported in June it had spent only $1.5 trillion on war-related costs since Sept. 11, 2001. But Crawford says that direct DOD spending doesn’t tell the whole story.

“War costs are more than what we spend in any one year on what’s called the pointy end of the spear,” she told The Wall Street Journal last month. “There are all these other costs behind the spear, and there are consequences of using it, that we need to include.”

Crawford’s $4.4 trillion figure includes costs through 2017 for operations overseas, medical and disability claims for veterans, counterterrorism efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and interest on borrowing for the wars.

Her estimate comes closer to Trump’s $7 trillion figure when including expected future spending. When including expenditures for veteran health care through 2056 and estimated war costs for 2018, total war-related spending rises to $5.6 trillion.

A Harvard working paper from 2013 estimated that the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will total between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. These figures are closer to Trump’s claim, but they are also based on cost estimates of veteran care for decades to come. Trump’s claim is based on costs to date.

Another factor is that the wars in the Middle East are financed almost entirely with debt. Crawford’s study estimates that accumulated interest on war appropriations through 2013 alone will add $7.9 trillion to the national debt by 2056. But, again, these are expected costs, not costs so far.

When asked to clarify what data Trump was referencing during his speech, the White House provided The Daily Caller News Foundation with the data from Crawford’s study. As mentioned, Crawford found spending to date to be far below $7 trillion.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter