There are many uncertainties about the progress made by coalition forces and the future prospects for stability and democracy in Iraq, but there is at least one indisputable fact: The Bush administration vastly underestimated the costs of the Iraq war.
Not only in human lives, but in monetary terms as well, the costs of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq far exceed the administration's initial projection of a $50 billion tab. While the number of American casualties in Iraq has declined this year, the amount of money spent to fight the war and rebuild the country has spiralled upward.
The price is expected to almost double after lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next week when the Senate takes up a record $106.5 billion emergency spending bill that includes $72.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed a $92 billion version of the bill last month that included $68 billion in war funding. That comes on top of $50 billion already allocated for the war this fiscal year.
ABC analyst Tony Cordesman, who also holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the exorbitant costs come down to poor planning.
"When the administration submitted its original budget for the Iraq war, it didn't provide money for continuing the war this year or any other. We could end up spending up to $1 trillion in supplemental budgets for this war."
According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the United States spent $48 billion for Iraq in 2003, $59 billion in 2004, and $81 billion in 2005. The center predicts the figure will balloon to $94 billion for 2006. That equates to a $1,205 bill for each of America's 78 million families, on top of taxes they already pay.
Analysts say the increases can be blamed on the rising cost of maintaining military equipment and developing new equipment. As the cost of military equipment escalates, the cost of the war escalates. In fact, developing state-of-the-art weapons to defeat insurgents and their roadside bombs will hit the wallets of American taxpayers for years to come.
"The Department of Defense has increased its investment in new equipment from $700 billion to $1.4 trillion in the coming years," Cordesman said.
Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker recently warned lawmakers that the cost of upkeep and replacement of military equipment would continue even after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq. To fully reequip and upgrade the U.S. Army after the war ends will cost $36 billion over six years, and that figure assumes U.S. forces will start withdrawing from Iraq in July, and be completely out of the country by the end of 2008.