US Operation Against ISIL Costs Over $500 Million

Iraq airstrikes

U.S. military operations in Iraq since mid-June have cost well above $500 million and can currently be paid for out of 2014 budgets without going to Congress for additional funding, the Pentagon said Friday.

The costs have averaged about $7.5 million per day since June 16 and include money for current airstrikes, intelligence and surveillance flights, humanitarian relief, arms shipments. The $500 million tally includes sending nearly 1,000 troops to Iraq and setting up Joint Operations Centers in Baghdad and Irbil, said Rear Adm. John Kirb y, the Pentagon press secretary.

June 16 was the date that President Obama authorized sending up to 300 Special Forces troops from U.S. Central Command to Iraq to assess the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Kirby said the $7.5 million figure was a rough estimate on the costs that fluctuate. A $7.5 million average would equal $547 million through Friday.

Funding in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget for Overseas Contingency Operations, which is separate from the Defense Department's base budget, was sufficient to meet the costs of current operations in Iraq, Kirby said.

"We think we've got it covered," Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, told earlier this week that the cost of the air campaign in Iraq alone thus far was about $100 million.

The costs included between $56 million and $83 million for more than 1,200 surveillance sorties, between $14 million and $21 million for munitions, and between $4 million and $6 million for more than 100 strike sorties, Harrison said.

Kirby and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spent much of their separate Friday briefings on trying to clarify President Obama's statement at a news conference Thursday that "we don't have a strategy yet" to defeat ISIL.

Both Earnest and Kirby said that Obama was referring to a strategy for potential strikes against ISIL in Syria, and not to current operations in Iraq.

Earnest said that Obama had directed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop options for possible action in Syria. Obama was "determined to make sure every element in his national security strategy was thought through," Earnest said.

"The Syrian component here is a relatively new one," Kirby said of the overall strategy. "We're ready, we're ready all the time" for possible action in Syria if ordered by Obama, Kirby said, "but that doesn't mean all the planning has been done."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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