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U.S. combat presence in Iraq will withdraw on Aug. 31

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Aug 2, 2010


KAI RYSSDAL: President Obama told a disabled veterans group today that the end is in sight in Iraq. He said all U.S. combat troops would be out of Iraq by the end of this month. We thought this would be a good time to look at how much we’ve spent in Iraq, and what we’ve gotten for our money.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer takes us down the money trail.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: So far, Congress has appropriated more than $700 billion for the war in Iraq. Some of that money went toward troop salaries and the cost of training Iraqi security forces.

Gordon Adams is an analyst at the Stimson Center, a defense think tank. He says, there’s also the cost of supporting the troops.

Gordon Adams: All of the expenditure for fuel and transportation and ammunition and running the dining halls and contracting.

There will still be about 50,000 non-combat U.S. troops in Iraq through the end of next year. When they’re gone, only the State Department will be left. Todd Harrison is with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He says, while the military used contractors for cooking and laundry, the State Department will need workers with more skill who demand high salaries.

Todd Harrison: Security contractors, translators, people like that.

But even after the State Department takes over, and U.S. forces are gone, the military will still be absorbing costs of the Iraq war. Many U.S. troops have been permanently disabled. And today, President Obama said the government will spare no expense taking care of them.

President Barack Obama: This is the sacred trust we have pledged to uphold. To you, and all who serve.

So far, 38 percent of the veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have filed claims for government disability payments. That’s according to Harvard professor Linda Bilmes. She says the government will spend even more on these veterans as they age.

Linda Bilmes: So very significant disability compensation payouts over many, many decades that will be peaking 30 or 40 years from now.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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