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Analysts: Airstrike Costs Creep Toward $1 Billion


The cost of U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria may be approaching $1 billion, according to an independent analysis.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and other researchers at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank estimated the overall cost of the strikes at $780 million to $930 million in the roughly three-month period through Sept. 24.

"The cost of future operations depends primarily on how long operations continue, the intensity of air operations, and whether additional ground forces are deployed beyond what is already planned," write the authors, who also include John Stillion, Eric Lindsey and Jacob Cohn.

Lower-intensity air operations and some 2,000 deployed troops would cost $2.4 billion to $3.8 billion per year, higher-intensity strikes and some 5,000 ground forces would cost $4.2 billion to $6.8 billion per year, and significantly expanded operations with 25,000 troops would cost $13 billion to $22 billion per year, according to the analysis, which updates a previous estimate.

President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of some 1,700 American troops to Iraq to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces repel gains made by the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group that has overtaken swaths of Iraq and Syria.

The Pentagon last month said it was spending about $7.5 million per day on missions to bomb the Islamic militants and to provide humanitarian relief to displaced civilians. That was before it expanded the scope of the operations this month to include targets in Syria.

The airstrikes may benefit Raytheon Co., the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles, and other defense contractors that produce weapons, spare parts and other equipment needed for the effort.

The Pentagon requested a fiscal 2015 defense budget of about $554 billion, including a base budget of $496 billion and a war budget of about $59 billion. Congress hasn’t yet approved the spending plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The White House also requested a separate $5 billion counter-terrorism fund, of which, $4 billion would go to the Defense Department and $1 billion would go to the State Department — presumably for exactly the type of missions currently underway in Iraq and Syria.

Congress earlier this month authorized providing some $500 million to train and equipment 5,000 members of the Free Syrian Army as part of a stop-gap funding measure to keep the U.S. government running through mid-December.

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