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Tue 30 Sep 2014 09:19 AM

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US spending $10m a day fighting ISIL, cost could hit up to $3.8bn per year

A further ramp-up of operations could push the price as high as $22bn annually, military analysts estimate

US spending $10m a day fighting ISIL, cost could hit up to $3.8bn per year
(Photo for illustrative purposes onlly)

US military efforts against ISIL have cost nearly
$1 billion so far and are likely to run between $2.4 billion and $3.8 billion
per year if air and ground operations continue at the current pace, according
to a think tank analysis.

But a ramp-up, including more air strikes and a
significant boost in ground forces, could send costs soaring to between $13
billion and $22 billion annually, said the analysis released on Monday by the
nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

"Future costs depend, to a great extent, on
how long operations continue, the steady-state level of air operations, and
whether additional ground forces are deployed beyond what is already
planned," said the report by Todd Harrison and other analysts.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters last
week that the Pentagon has spent roughly $7 million to $10 million per day on
operations against ISIL since June 16, when it first deployed troops to assess
the Iraqi military and advise its leaders.

The United States began air strikes against ISIL
militants in Iraq on Aug. 8 and expanded them to Syria on September 22. Coalition
forces have carried out 290 air strikes in Iraq and Syria, of which the US
military has conducted 265.

US planes are flying about 60 reconnaissance
sorties per day, and some 1,600 US troops are being deployed in Iraq.

The think tank's analysis estimated the cost of US
operations against ISIL through September 24 at between $780 million and $930
million. That agreed roughly with Hagel's estimate of the cost per day.

If air operations continue at a moderate level and
deployed ground forces remain in the range of 2,000, then the cost of the US
military effort against the militant Islamist group would likely run between
$200 million and $320 million per month, the report said.

But increased air operations, coupled with the
deployment of up to 5,000 ground troops, would cost between $350 million and
$570 million per month. High-intensity air operations with a deployment of
25,000 troops could cost $1.1 billion to $1.8 billion per month, the report
said.

Defense officials have indicated they will have to
seek more funding because of the fight against ISIL.

Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the Pentagon's 2015 budget proposal
assumed stable or declining commitments abroad and some flexibility to adjust
military pay and healthcare and to retire weapons systems.

"Commitments have gone up," Dempsey told
reporters, noting that Congress has rejected some proposals to retire weapons
and adjust military compensation.

"So if you're asking me do I assess right now
... that we're going to have budget problems? Yes."

The center said its cost estimates were based on
publicly available information about the types of aircraft and munitions being
used, as well as expenditures in previous operations.