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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone January 27, 2023

U.S. spending in Afghanistan dwarfs aid to Ukraine

If Your Time is short

  • Congress has approved about $111 billion in aid to Ukraine since the country was invaded by Russia in February 2022.

  • During a 20-year entanglement in Afghanistan, the U.S. spent between $825 billion and $2.3 trillion, depending on the source of the estimate and what’s being included.

Congress on four separate occasions has approved billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine since Russia first invaded the country last February. But is that twice what the U.S. spent during its 20-year conflict in Afghanistan?

Although that’s what one social media user is claiming, his math is off the mark — by billions of dollars.

"Here’s a nine-month recap of all the money laundering we’ve given to Ukraine," says the narrator in a Jan. 26 Instagram reel. He listed three figures: from March ($13.6 billion), May ($40 billion) and November ($37.7 billion), totaling $91.3 billion.

"That’s also double the U.S. expenditure for its own war in Afghanistan," he said. 

The speaker is the host of "The Splendid Savage Podcast," according to information on the Instagram post, and his podcast has nearly 75,000 followers on Instagram.

The video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Featured Fact-check

The speaker undercounted the total amount of money the U.S. Congress has approved on a bipartisan basis to aid Ukraine in 2022. Legislators approved $13.6 billion in March, $40.1 billion in May, $12.3 billion in September and finally $45 billion in December, for a total of about $111 billion. And it may be many years before all that money is actually spent, said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That’s a lot of money, but not even close to what the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan.

One widely cited estimate shows that the U.S. spent about $2.3 trillion in two decades in Afghanistan, from fiscal years 2001 to 2021. That’s from the Costs of War project by researchers at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. That’s $2.189 trillion more than the $111 billion in aid given to Ukraine.

Another estimate, in 2020 by the Defense Department, pegged the amount spent in Afghanistan at about $825 billion.

The lower number includes only money related to the Department of Defense, Cancian said, while the higher Brown University number includes other items, such as veterans benefits.

Even taking the lower estimate of $825 billion, the U.S. would have spent $714 billion more in Afghanistan than in aid to Ukraine.

We rate the claim that the amount the U.S. has spent in Ukraine is "double the U.S. expenditure for its own war in Afghanistan" False.

Our Sources

Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, Brown University, "Human and budgetary costs to date of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, 2001-2022"

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "Congress Approved $113 Billion of Aid to Ukraine in 2022," Jan. 5, 2023

Congress, "Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022," March 2022

Congress, "H.R.7691 - Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022," May 15, 2022

The Associated Press, "Biden signs bill to avert government shutdown, aid Ukraine," Sept. 30, 2022

CNBC, "U.S. House approves Ukraine aid including arms after Zelenskyy visit," Dec. 24, 2022

The White House, "Remarks by President Biden on the end of the war in Afghanistan," Aug. 31, 2021

Defense Department, report, Oct. 30, 2020

Email interview with Mark Cancian, a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Jan. 27, 2023z

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U.S. spending in Afghanistan dwarfs aid to Ukraine

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