Revealed: £12bn hidden costs of Afghan war

Exclusive: The bill since 2001 is equal to £190 for every man, woman and child in the country.

The soaring cost of Britain's military campaign in Afghanistan is laid bare today, as a comprehensive analysis reveals that the cost of fighting the Taliban has passed £12bn. An Independent on Sunday assessment of the "hidden costs" of fighting since the Taliban was ousted in 2001 reveals that the bill works out at £190 for every man, woman and child in the UK – and would pay for 23 new hospitals, 60,000 new teachers or 77,000 new nurses.

The £12bn directly funded by taxpayers is swollen still further by millions poured into rebuilding Afghanistan every year by British charities and other non-governmental organisations. As the Ministry of Defence announced yesterday that another British soldier had been killed in Helmand province, there was no sign of an end to the spiralling human and financial costs of the campaign.

The Government has signalled its determination to step up its financial support for the UN-led operation, despite British forces enduring their bloodiest month since the start of the campaign. Former British commanders yesterday warned that the effort may have to continue for years more – but questioned the commitment of politicians to see the job through in the longer term.

By the middle of 2010, the Ministry of Defence will have spent more than £9bn on "Operation Herrick", the multinational Afghan campaign sparked by al-Qa'ida's 9/11 attacks. MoD outlay on fighting the war has risen from £221m in 2001-02 to an estimated £3.49bn this year. The 2009-10 figure will be almost £1bn more than last year and nearly five times the £738m dedicated to Herrick in 2006-07.

The bill has been inflated by a series of costs, including more than £700m for urgent equipment orders, a £2,300 "operational bonus" for thousands of troops – and even more generous allowances for civil servants seconded to the country. In a memo to the defence committee, the MoD blamed "additional security costs required for the local elections, and the costs of around 200 personnel providing counter improvised explosive device (IED) expertise".

Although the MoD's estimates cover spending on logistics such as wages, equipment and transportation, they do not disclose the "hidden" costs of war, such as support for injured troops, veterans and the families of personnel killed in action. Defence experts estimate that up to half the cost of new benefits payments and welfare provision every year will be directly attributable to the campaign in Afghanistan.

One indication of the financial impact of the conflict is the steep increase in claims to the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), which covers injury, illness and death caused by service since 6 April 2005. The value of lump-sum settlements of claims settled under the scheme has risen from £1.27m in its first year of operation to £30.2m last year. But the awards also come with ongoing "guaranteed income payments" costing more than £100m.

MoD figures show that at least 218 soldiers have suffered "life-changing injuries" since April 2006 alone – and more than 50 personnel have undergone amputations following injuries. The latest MoD analysis shows that, of 53 personnel who were seriously injured in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, 41 made claims to the AFCS. Only one of the 23 personnel very seriously injured (VSI) in Afghanistan during 2007 failed to make a compensation claim. The MoD has reported 214 casualties, including VSIs, during Operation Herrick since 2001.

During 2006-08, 34 UK personnel attended field hospital for psychiatric reasons, and 414 were assessed as having a psychological disorder on their return to Britain.

The casualties contribute to an MoD benefits bill which shows spending of more than £1bn a year on war pensions to veterans or their families. The bereaved partner of a member of the armed forces killed in action is entitled to a pension averaging £100 a week.

An MoD source said yesterday that the department feared the Afghan campaign was adding at least £250m a year to their spending on welfare services. But there is no evidence that the knock-on effects of Operation Herrick are going to subside any time soon.

MoD chiefs are also paying out to cover deaths and injury to civilians in Afghanistan. Independent estimates put the toll of Afghan civilians killed in the conflict as high as 30,000, and activists warn that the "collateral damage" of coalition activity is sapping local support.

The MoD is not the only department that is spending taxpayers' money in Afghanistan, however. The Department for International Development (DfID) has recently unveiled an ambitious plan that will push its total spending in the country to £969m between 2001 and 2012. The Foreign Office (FCO) has spent £230m on the Afghan campaign since 2006 alone, more than a third of it on an operation entitled "Strategic Programme Funds: counter-narcotics". In the six years after the Taliban were ousted, production of the opium which produced 90 per cent of the heroin on Britain's streets rose by 150 per cent.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, will tomorrow make a keynote speech designed to reinforce the case for the UK staying the course in Afghanistan. Colonel Bob Stewart, former commander of British forces in the Balkans, said the Government had been "confused" about what it wanted to achieve in the area. He said: "The Government needs to have a crystal-clear aim to neutralise Afghanistan so it can't do us any harm either directly or implicitly. We've got to stay the course in Afghanistan."

Major General Patrick Cordingley, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats, said the original objectives – ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban and al-Qa'ida and reconstructing the country – had "gone out the window". He added: "There's no shame in saying we need a rest."

General Sir Hugh Beach, former deputy commander of British Land Forces, warned, "The British Army has done magnificently, but it's a long slog. You don't do it probably in two years or three – it might take five years or 10. Will we have the political will to stay there that long? I very much doubt it."

Afghan conflict in numbers


Overall cost of Afghan campaign since 2001. Could have paid for 60,000 teachers, 77,000 nurses or 23 hospitals


Increase in MoD spending on Afghanistan, 2006/07 to 2009/10


Estimate of the number of Afghan civilians killed as a result of the conflict


UK service personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001. The latest death was confirmed yesterday


Increase in Afghan opium production, 2001-07


Average weekly war pension entitlement of widow/widower


Bullets fired by UK forces in Helmand, Aug 2006-Sept 2007

footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Paul McCartney backs the
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone