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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law a $106 billion measure to fulfill his plans to wind down the war in Iraq and ramp up operations in Afghanistan where fighting against militants is intensifying.
It was supposed to be a quick war and a cheap one. Five years later, 160,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq. And the costs keep piling up - $12 billion every month - putting a strain on an already faltering economy.
Because the money for the war is being borrowed, interest payments could add another $615 billion. A heavily depleted military will have to be rebuilt at a cost of $280 billion. Disability benefits and health care for Iraq war veterans, many of them severely injured, could add another half-trillion dollars over their lifetime.
Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard University public finance Professor Laura Bilmes, both of whom served in the Clinton administration, have included those calculations in a new study of the war's long-term costs. Their estimate of the war's price tag: $3 trillion.
The legislation did not include $80 million Obama wanted for closing Guantanamo and bans releasing any detainees into the United States through September 30. But it allows detainees to be brought to U.S. soil for trial.