While the conflict in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State has, for the most part, been relegated to the back pages of the mainstream media in North America, the battle continues unabated. Despite the recent ceasefire, there is quite a bit of action as part of Operation Inherent Resolve that is costing American taxpayers significantly as you will see in this posting.
Thanks to the Department of Defense, we get relatively regular updates on the situation in the operations to counter the Islamic State. It is important to keep in mind that American forces have aligned themselves with a wide spectrum of local militia groups (some which have dubious goals) in the region in the attempt to control the spread of the Islamic State since operations began on August 8, 2014. As well, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are participating in the operations in Iraq and the same nations excluding Belgium but adding Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the operations in Syria
First, here are the key operational statistics, current to September 20, 2016:
1.) Number of strikes by the United States-led coalition:
Syria - 5,251
Iraq - 9883
Total - 15,2134
2.) Number of Strikes by the United States:
Syria - 4,983
Iraq - 6,704
Total - 11,687
3.) Total number of sorties flow by the United States-led coalition:
Syria and Iraq - 111,410
Here is a summary of the targets damaged and destroyed up to May 31, 2016:
Here is a map showing the next operations planned for the anti-Islamic State campaign:
Now, let's get to the bottom line. As of August 15, 2016, the total cost of operations for Operation Inherent Resolve is $9 billion for an average daily cost of $12.3 million over the 739 days of operations. Here is a more detailed biweekly breakdown:
While the cost of Operation Inherent Resolve may not seem overly onerous given how expensive military operations are, we have to keep in mind that this operation is basically an extension of the Iraq war which started in March 2003. A recent assessment by Neta Crawford at Boston University shows the following war-related spending in current dollars for each of the theatres of operations:
If you prefer, here is a graphical representation of the year-by-year spending on each major war zone:
Here is a table that shows total spending and future spending obligations related to the "Foreign War on Terror":
Let's close with the following graphic which shows the influence that the Defense industry has on Washington:
The defense industry is the tenth highest spender (almost tied with two other sectors) when it comes to getting Washington to see thing their way.
It's really no wonder that we find ourselves in a perpetual state of war. While the cost of the current anti-Islamic State operations pale in comparison to what has already been spent getting rid of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban/al Qaeda, in large part, Operation Inherent Resolve has certainly been less than a resounding success when one looks at it in context of the terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States since 2014.