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The Cost of Staying the Course in Iraq

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In a June 2007 interview, Gen. David Petraeus said that “historically counterinsurgency operations [like Iraq] have gone nine or 10 years.” Despite General Petraeus’ estimations, President Bush has not yet articulated the projected costs in both blood and treasure associated with a decade-long troop presence in Iraq. Based on past expenditures and casualties, we at the Center for American Progress offer this conservative projection of the costs of 10 more years of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The cost in terms of our troops’ lives is more difficult to calculate. The war in Iraq is dynamic, and projections of future casualties are dependent on U.S. troop levels, tactics, and the strength of the insurgency, among other variables. While we hesitate to calculate this and make no predictions, one must be aware of the possible number of casualties that could occur for the time we remain in Iraq.

If you consider the lowest rate at which our troops were killed (in 2006), we suffered 822 deaths that year. If you consider the highest rate at which our troops were killed (2007 thus far), we suffered just over three deaths per day, which would translate to 1,117 total deaths this year. Thus if we were to remain in Iraq for another 10 years, we could well suffer between 8,220 and 11,167 additional deaths.

The number of wounded would be even greater. If you consider the lowest rate at which our troops have suffered casualties (2005), we suffered just over 16 wounded per day. If you consider the highest rate at which our troops have suffered casualties (2004), we suffered almost 22 wounded per day. Thus if we were to remain in Iraq for another 10 years, we could suffer between 59,500 and 80,000 additional wounded.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) put it well during Gen. Petreaus’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he asked:  “Are we going to continue to invest American blood and treasure at the same rate we are doing now, for what?” It is time to stop recklessly endangering the lives of our brave men and women serving in Iraq as well as the national security of this country and begin a strategic reset in the region and a redeployment of our forces out of Iraq.

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