Afghanistan by the Numbers

Today’s Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) report provides the following estimates.

Total Cost of the Afghanistan War (2001-02 to 2010-11): $18.1 billion

Past Cost (2001-02 to 2007-08): $10.5 billion

Future Cost (2008-09 to 2010-11): $7.7 billion

These figures are incremental costs, “costs that would not have been incurred except for the operation. Alternatively put, these would be the total savings to the Government of Canada had Canada not been involved in the Afghanistan mission.” (p. 6)

In other words, the federal government could save $7.7 billion by leaving Afghanistan now. By comparison, the NDP platform cautiously estimated a “Peace Dividend” of only $2.8 billion.

PBO suggests that some of the remaining $4.9 billion has not been budgeted: “the actual incremental costs of the mission could exceed the Parliamentary appropriations.” (p. 10)

Proponents of staying in Afghanistan through 2011 must explain how they would finance these unbudgeted costs. Any portion of the $4.9 billion that is covered by existing appropriations must be considered an addition to the NDP’s proposed “Peace Dividend.”

Today’s report breaks down spending between military operations, veterans’ benefits and aid:

Past Cost
Military – $7.4 billion (70%)
Veterans – $2.1 billion (20%)
Aid – $1.0 billion (10%)
Total – $10.5 billion (100%)

Future Cost
Military – $5.7 billion (74%)
Veterans – $1.3 billion (17%)
Aid – $0.7 billion (9%)
Total – $7.7 billion (100%)

As was already well known, the lion’s share of resources have gone to the war effort instead of humanitarian or development aid. Going forward, the Government of Canada will apparently increase the proportion spent on military operations and decrease the proportion spent on benefits for veterans and assistance for Afghans.

Note: The PBO provides both lower-bound and upper-bound estimates. I have cited the upper-bound figures because the report itself indicates, “the PBO estimate may likely understate the costs of the military operations.” (p. 7)


  • Thanks for this. It is clear to many that we can not win this war and we shouldn’t be spending billions to continue to lose it. The effort to support Afghanistan is good and required. The war is not…

    The NDP plan is looking saner every day!

  • Of course this is just a dollars, the human costs have been tragic as well. And so to does the cost of losing our status throughout the international community of being deemed a peace keeping force,as I do not consider this peace keeping. No we are now viewed as mini- George W.’s

    For me though the cost has been in lives and the families left behind, these are tragic loses fo young people only doing what they have been ordered and committed to do. And they have paid a dear price.


  • This report has scandalized Canadians, and rightly so. Its true the NDP have a good demand, troops out now, but in an age of nuclear weapons and chemical warfare, wouldn’t a sane policy be to cut military spending by 50%? That’s what the Communist Party is talking about, as well as Nationalizing Oil and Gas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *