Around 500,000 ‘direct deaths’ in US Wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq – Costs of War Project

A report by the Costs of War project at the Watson Institute, Brown University, suggests that between 480,000 and 507,000 people have directly died as a result of the United States’ post-2001 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. According to the figures, around 65,000 people died in Pakistan, out of which over 23,000 were civilian casualties. On the other hand, the total number of deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq amount to 147,000 and 268,000-295,000 respectively.

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The report further states that even with the reduction of intensity in war in Afghanistan, the number of civilians killed in 2018 is on track to be one of the highest death tolls in the war. However, the report also states that most of the statistics compiled for this report are understated. This is because “many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) attempt to track civilian, militant, and armed forces and police deaths in wars. Yet there is usually great uncertainty in any count of killing in war. While we often know how many US soldiers die, most other numbers are to a degree uncertain. Indeed, we may never know the total direct death toll in these wars.”

Moreover, the report also notes that the numbers do not include the “indirect deaths” resulting from the aftermath of conflict and violence. The report further criticizes the US government’s commitment in reducing civilian casualties as these casualties have increased in attacks from “pro-government forces”. The situation, in this regard, is dire in Afghanistan specifically, where in the last few years, more civilians have been killed in “pro-government forces” strikes.

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The report also explains how the war in these countries has also resulted in displacement of millions of civilians. Moreover, it is argued that refugees from these mass displacements are also affecting the region on the whole. In this regard, the report says that “about half of the 2.6 million refugees from the war in Afghanistan are found in Pakistan (1.3 million people). More than 900,000 Afghans are living in Iran. Most refugees from the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been hosted in Turkey — nearly 3.5 million people. Iran is also hosting nearly a million Syrians and Iraqis.”


The report concludes that these numbers, of casualties and displacement, merely “scratch the surface” of the human suffering and the consequence of the seventeen years of the US wars in the region.

The full report can be found here

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