Ever since the Twin Towers fell, the United States has been at war, writes Lena Groeger. The costs of that decade of conflict have been unimaginably high: trillions of dollars spent, hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The numbers are almost too big to grasp, let alone quantify.
These figures are also a way of showing the radical transformation the U.S. military has undergone during the 9/11 era. Drones, once an afterthought in tactical plans, have become a central component, flying millions of hours in combat. Special operations forces have added tens of thousands to their ranks.Bomb-resistant armored vehicles, absent from the American arsenal in 2001, are now a primary means of battlefield transportation — even as Afghanistan’s militants find new ways to render them irrelevant.
We know how many American troops have been killed in this decade’s wars. How many Afghans and Iraqis have lost their lives isn’t clear. The United Nations only started keeping reliable statistics on Afghanistan’s casualties in 2007. The estimates for the number of dead Iraqis vary by 1,000 percent or more. And even if these conflicts last another 10 years, the final toll may never be known.