October 3rd, 2008
04:30 PM ET
6 years ago

Fact check: Cost of Iraq combat v. Afghanistan reconstruction

Biden said the U.S spends more during three weeks in Iraq than in seven years in Afghanistan.
Biden said the U.S spends more during three weeks in Iraq than in seven years in Afghanistan.

The Statement:
Sen. Joe Biden said at the October 2 vice presidential debate that the United States spends "more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country ... or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan."

Get the facts!

The facts:
Biden's remark seems to refer to two specific, and very different statistics: U.S. spending in Iraq only on combat operations, not on reconstruction and other activities; and U.S. spending on "building" Afghanistan - presumably, money for reconstruction in that country.

CNN asked the Obama-Biden campaign Friday what figures the senator was using as the basis for his assertion.  The campaign sent CNN two figures: a report from the Congressional Research Service in July that put costs for combat operations in Iraq at $10.3 billion per month in fiscal year 2007, and another CRS report, updated in September, showing that between fiscal year 2002 and fiscal year 2008, the United States spent $7 billion on U.S. Agency for International Development obligations to Afghanistan.

Using those figures, Biden is correct.  At a rate of $10.3 billion per month, the U.S. spends $7.1 billion on combat operations in Iraq over a three-week period - higher than the $7 billion on USAID expenditures between fiscal years 2002 and 2008.

Since the Obama campaign's figure for spending in Iraq dated back to 2007, CNN looked for a more current one.  Department of Defense officials told CNN Friday that the United States is spending, on average, $9.6 billion per month on combat operations in Iraq.  That works out to about $6.6 billion for three weeks.  So using that figure, it would take a couple more days to reach $7 billion.  But the Congressional Research Service figure the Obama camp uses from 2007 is, in a way, more complete.  That report includes "classified and other unreported war-related activities," lifting the total combat spending in Iraq.

It's important to keep in mind that figures for USAID projects are only a portion of total U.S. spending in Afghanistan.  In July, the State Department reported that, since fiscal year 2001, the United States has spent $17.2 billion on security in Afghanistan and $1.3 billion on "governance, rule of law, and human rights" efforts.  Some may consider that latter figure part of "building" a society.  But the Obama campaign made clear Biden was referring only to development projects, funded through USAID.

Verdict:
True.  But the figures for Afghanistan do not include all U.S. spending to assist that country.


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