The US is on schedule to draw down US troops in Iraq to 50,000 by the end of August and the remainder within 18 months (by the end of December 2011). This is in accordance with the agreement negotiated at the end of the Bush administration.
But drawing down the number of troops doesn’t mean the end of spending money. Many of the biggest costs are still ahead. These include:
1) The ongoing cost of caring for our veterans. Two million US troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 9 years. Already 450,000 have filed for disability compensation. Benefit payments will continue for decades.
2) Veterans medical care: More than 500,000 returning troops have already been treated by the VA and some will require care for the rest of their lives.
3) Veterans Social Security disability stipends: veterans who can no longer work are eligible to receive Social Security compensation.
4) Veterans education, housing and other benefits.
5) The US still has thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and on navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn.
6) The number of contractors may increase. The State Department will hire another 4000-5000 private security contractors once the military pullout is complete. Other contractors will be hired to do medical evacuations, fly aircraft, drive armored vehicles, and perform other functions that the being transferred to the State Department.
7) Thecost of replacing billions of dollars worth of vehicles, weapons and equipment that is no longer usable and to transport whatever is salvageable out of the country for repair.
8) Interest we must pay on the $800 billion we have already spent — all of which was borrowed.
Total cost of caring for veterans, continued Iraqi operations, replenishing and transporting equipment, and additional costs to the Defense Department bring the total to more than $2 trillion. Including the economic costs – both to individuals and to the economy as whole – the bill tops $3 trillion dollars. Including interest on the debt would make the total much higher.