New Delhi: A study by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs has found that between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed in the US’s post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This tally of direct deaths caused by war violence does not include the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011, which the US joined in August 2014.
The US’s “war on terror” is an ongoing strategy by the US since the attack on the twin towers in New York in September 2001 to “eradicate” terrorism throughout the world. In the following 17 years, the US has invaded Afghanistan (in 2001) and Iraq (in 2003). The invasion of Iraq paved the way for the creation of ISIS, snowballing into even more military and civilian deaths.
The study finds that in each of the three countries, civilian deaths have been the second-highest source of casualties after national military and police. The tally also does not include “indirect deaths” which are a result of consequences for people’s health in war zones. An extended period of war can cause loss of access to food, water, health facilities, electricity or other infrastructure.
Displacement has created additional hardship for civilians in these war zones. An estimated 8.41 million people from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan were internally displaced or became refugees and asylum-seekers in 2017 alone. In Syria, the number was as high as 12.59 million. Pakistan, Turkey and Iran are bearing a disproportionate refugee burden, hosting approximately 5.8 million refugees between them.
The wars have also killed nearly 7,000 US soldiers and sailors. According to the study, the number of US combatants killed in the wars annually has declined, although this is because the US has transferred much of the direct ground combat to its allies in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Additionally, more than 53,700 US soldiers and sailors have been officially listed as wounded in the major post-9/11 war zones.
Amputations were a common occurrence for US troops throughout the years of direct ground combat. However, the consequences go far beyond the physical. In its most recent report, issued in 2015, the Congressional Research Service found that more than 300,000 troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Strikingly, there were more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016, a rate that is 1.5 times greater than that of the non-veteran population.