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US cost of war so far is $20 bn: Pentagon

The Iraq war has cost at least $20 billion and probably will consume that much or more in the next five months, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2003 11:32 IST

The Iraq war has cost at least $20 billion and probably will consume that much or more in the next five months, the Pentagon's top budget officer said on Wednesday.

An additional $5 billion to $7 billion will be needed to pay for getting US troops from the Gulf region to their home bases, officials said. That process is just now beginning. Those totals do not include the yet to be calculated sums for postwar reconstruction of Iraq, the Defence Department's comptroller said at a news conference. The United States is counting on contributions from other countries to pay part of the rebuilding cost.

Dov Zakheim said military operations in Iraq to date have cost about $10 billion to $12 billion. Personnel costs have been about $6 billion and the cost of munitions has been more than $3 billion. The figures include what it cost to move 250,000 troops to the Gulf area.

Between now and the end of the federal budget year on Sept. 30, the Pentagon expects to spend about $20 billion more on military operations inside Iraq, officials said.

In human costs, the Pentagon said the official death toll for US troops rose to 125, including a Marine corporal killed in a March 23 firefight near Nasiriyah, Iraq. The Pentagon said it had identified the remains of one soldier who had been listed as missing in action. There are now three Americans listed as missing. At a separate news conference, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that although major combat was ended, there were still some Iraqi towns that US forces have not reached, including an area north of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

McChrystal said the war's overall commander, General Tommy Franks, was sending some US forces home.

Franks probably will move some sort of headquarters operation into Iraq soon, McChrystal said.

"Whether it will be located in Baghdad proper, I can't say," McChrystal said. "But at some point, I think as he transitions to the next phase, he would probably recommend and stand up that kind of headquarters and put it right within Iraq."

The military's top officer, Gen. Richard Myers, said in a speech on Wednesday that US forces in Iraq are now beginning to focus more on hunting for weapons of mass destruction rather than fighting. "Weapons of mass destruction, while important, weren't as important as winning the war. We had a priority to win a war," Myers told the Navy League of America. "I have every confidence that we will find them. We're going to need some help from the Iraqi people. That is being worked very hard right now." Myers said he is not surprised that such weapons have not been found.

"I don't know how long it will take. They have been hiding that stuff from inspectors now for 12 years," he said. American forces also have bombed bases of a group opposed to Iran's government that had been supported by Saddam's regime in Iraq, Myers said. Speaking to foreign reporters, Myers said US forces were pursuing fighters from the Mujahedeen Khalq remaining inside Iraq.

"It's possible some of them may surrender very soon to coalition forces, as a matter of fact," Myers said in response to a question from an Iranian reporter. "So we're still interested in that particular group."

The Mujahedeen Khalq is on the US list of terrorist groups and American officials say it had several thousand fighters supported and directed by Saddam's regime. The force has been a thorn in the side of Iran - which President George W Bush called part of an "axis of evil" with Iraq and North Korea - and Iranian officials have said they would consider US attacks on the group a positive signal.

Myers said the question of what the attacks meant for US-Iranian relations was one for Secretary of State Colin Powell to answer.

At his news conference, Zakheim explained how the Pentagon will use the $62.6 billion Congress has approved in supplemental spending over the Pentagon's $364 billion for the current budget year. Nearly all the new money is for the war in Iraq and the global fight against terror.

The supplemental spending bill provides $1.4 billion to repay terrorism war allies such as Pakistan, which Zakheim said is spending $70 million a month searching its northern tribal areas for members of al-Qaida. Jordan also will be reimbursed, he said, without giving a figure.

The 1991 Gulf War cost about $60 billion, but nearly all of that was reimbursed by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other allies.

First Published: Apr 17, 2003 11:32 IST