At least 37 million people have been displaced as a direct result of the wars fought by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a new report from Brown University’s Costs of War project. That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II.
The findings were published on Tuesday, weeks before the United States enters its 20th year of fighting the war on terror, which began with the invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001; yet, the report says it is the first time the number of people displaced by U.S. military involvement during this period has been calculated. The findings come at a time when the United States and other Western countries have become increasingly opposed to welcoming refugees, as anti-migrant fears bolster favor for closed-border policies.
The report accounts for the number of people, mostly civilians, displaced in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria, where fighting has been the most significant, and says the figure is a conservative estimate — the real number may range from 48 million to 59 million. The calculation does not include the millions of other people who have been displaced in countries with smaller U.S. counterterrorism operations, according to the report, including those in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Niger.
“This has been one of the major forms of damage, of course along with the deaths and injuries, that have been caused by these wars,” said David Vine, a professor of anthropology at American University and the lead author of the report. “It tells us that U.S. involvement in these countries has been horrifically catastrophic, horrifically damaging in ways that I don’t think that most people in the United States, in many ways myself included, have grappled with or reckoned with in even the slightest terms.”