Washington: The Iraq War will surpass the cost of the Vietnam War by the end of the year making it the second-most-expensive military conflict in the history of the United States, after World War II, according to Pentagon figures released on Friday. The milestone is set to be crossed with the Obama administration submitting a supplemental funding request to the Congress for an additional $87 billion for 2009, separate from amounts spent elsewhere, as in Afghnaistan.
Added to the amount spent through 2008, the funding for 2009 will mean that US taxpayers will have spent a total of about $694 billion on the Iraq War. This compares to the cost of $686 billion spent on the Vietnam War in inflation-adjusted dollars.
World War II cost the US $4 trillion, according to a Congressional Research Service study completed last year.
Though US forces, at their peak, had up to three times as many troops in Vietnam as in Iraq, and suffered 58,000 deaths, more than 12 times as many as have died in Iraq, it is turning out to be more expensive than Vietnam because of two main reasons - people and equipment.
According to experts, the Iraq war is the second-longest modern war ever fought with an all-volunteer US force, behind the smaller-scale effort in Afghanistan. Volunteer forces, they point out, are more expensive because of the extra financial costs involved in retaining people.
Pentagon has also relied heavily on private contractors to fulfill various roles, such as protecting diplomats and defending bases and transporting provisions and staff.
A Congressional Budget Office report last year estimated there were 190,000 contract workers employed by US agencies in Iraq. This was larger even than the number of US personnel at the peak of the 2007 troop surge - 160,000 to 170,000 troops.
Private contractors earn far higher amounts compared to ordinary soldiers.