How would you spend £34bn? Paying 5000 nurses for their entire career? Funding free university tuition for all students for a decade? Or on wars that promoted terrorism rather than reduced it?
The bill for military action in the past 24 years was £34.7billion, enough to pay nearly 5,000 nurses for their entire career, or fund free university tuition for all higher education students for a decade.
The true cost of Britain’s military operations since the Cold War could be as high as £72billion. Most of it has been squandered on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seen as ‘strategic failures’, claims a respected defence think-tank.
Toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein helped radicalise young Muslims in the UK, said the Royal United Services Institute. Far from reducing international terrorism, the Iraq war ‘had the effect of promoting it’. It had left Britain open to homegrown attacks such as the July 7 London bombings in 2005.
The authoritative study, Wars In Peace, was published as Tony Blair provoked criticism by urging the West to do more to tackle Islamic extremism.
Critics said the cost of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and sending thousands of troops to Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2006 - around £30billion and 627 lives lost - was simply not worth the results.
Last night John Miller, 63, the father of Royal Military policeman Corporal Simon Miller, who was murdered by a mob in Iraq in 2003, said: ‘It is disgusting. What have we actually achieved by spending that kind of money and losing that many troops’ lives in those conflicts? Nothing. Both places are worse off and thousands of people are still being killed.’
The study calculated the cost of UK military interventions after the collapse of Communism, from the first Gulf War in 1990-91 to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and EU training missions last year, from Ministry of Defence freedom of information responses.
The bill for military action in the past 24 years was £34.7billion. The sum is enough to pay nearly 5,000 nurses or police officers for their entire career, or fund free university tuition for all higher education students for a decade.
This included £20.6billion in Afghanistan and £9.6billion during the Iraq war - 84 per cent of the total. Another £1.5billion was spent in Bosnia and £1.1billion in Kosovo on peacekeeping missions and £238million on the war in Libya.
The figures do not include what the Armed Forces would have been spending on usual running costs such as training exercises, fuel, accommodation and pay.
The study also estimates another £30billion may have to be spent on long-term care for war veterans and compensation payments for deaths and injuries could add another £7billion - bringing the total cost to £71.7billion.
The UK failed in Bosnia in the early 1990s, the 2003 invasion in Iraq, the deployment of troops to the insurgents’ stronghold of Helmand and the air strikes in Libya which helped oust Colonel Gaddafi but fuelled a brutal civil war.
RUSI’s most scathing criticism is reserved for the Iraq deployment. It said: ‘Far from reducing international terrorism... the invasion had the effect of promoting it. ‘The rise of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was a reaction to this invasion, and to the consequent marginalisation of Iraq’s Sunni population.
‘Today, AQAP and other radical jihadist groups stretching across the Iraqi-Syrian border, pose new terrorist threats to the UK and its allies that might not have existed, at least in this form, had Saddam remained in power.’
The study said military action in Iraq and Afghanistan had dented the reputation of the Armed Forces and reduced the appetite for further overseas interventions. The failure of Parliament to vote for operations against Syria last year took place ‘in the shadow of Iraq’, said RUSI.
Source: The Mail