January 31, 2023

Congress on four separate occasions has approved billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine since Russia first invaded the country last February. But is that twice what the U.S. spent during its 20-year conflict in Afghanistan?

Although that’s what one social media user is claiming, his math is off the mark — by billions of dollars.

“Here’s a nine-month recap of all the money laundering we’ve given to Ukraine,” says the narrator in a Jan. 26 Instagram reel. He listed three figures: from March ($13.6 billion), May ($40 billion) and November ($37.7 billion), totaling $91.3 billion.

“That’s also double the U.S. expenditure for its own war in Afghanistan,” he said.

The speaker is the host of “The Splendid Savage Podcast,” according to information on the Instagram post, and his podcast has nearly 75,000 followers on Instagram.

The video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The speaker undercounted the total amount of money the U.S. Congress has approved on a bipartisan basis to aid Ukraine in 2022. Legislators approved $13.6 billion in March, $40.1 billion in May, $12.3 billion in September and finally $45 billion in December, for a total of about $111 billion. And it may be many years before all that money is actually spent, said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That’s a lot of money, but not even close to what the U.S. has spent in Afghanistan.

One widely cited estimate shows that the U.S. spent about $2.3 trillion in two decades in Afghanistan, from fiscal years 2001 to 2021. That’s from the Costs of War project by researchers at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. That’s $2.189 trillion more than the $111 billion in aid given to Ukraine.

Another estimate, in 2020 by the Defense Department, pegged the amount spent in Afghanistan at about $825 billion.

The lower number includes only money related to the Department of Defense, Cancian said, while the higher Brown University number includes other items, such as veterans benefits.

Even taking the lower estimate of $825 billion, the U.S. would have spent $714 billion more in Afghanistan than in aid to Ukraine.

We rate the claim that the amount the U.S. has spent in Ukraine is “double the U.S. expenditure for its own war in Afghanistan” False.

This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for this fact check here and more of their fact checks here.

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Jeff Cercone is a contributing writer for PolitiFact. He has previously worked as a content editor for the Chicago Tribune and for the South Florida…
Jeff Cercone

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