At Least 38 Million Have Been Displaced by Post-9/11 Wars Waged by U.S: Report

At least 38 million people have been displaced from their homes due to the wars waged by the U.S. since 2001, according to a new report.

Millions have fled airstrikes, bombings, drone attacks and for other reasons during wars the U.S. military has launched or participated in since former president George W. Bush declared a global war on terror in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a recently updated report by David Vine, a professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C., and several of his students for Brown University's Costs of War 2020 project .

Some have left after their homes were destroyed and livelihoods threatened, while others escaped forced evictions, death threats, and large-scale ethnic cleansing, the report said.

20 years of US war in #Afghanistan has displaced at least 5.9 million #Afghans, among total 38 million displaced in US's 8 most violent post-9/11 wars. Graphic + pdf update @CostsOfWar report I wrote w/ 6 great @AmericanU students

— David Vine (@davidsvine) August 23, 2021

An update to the report in August 2021 estimates that at least 38 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria have become refugees or been internally displaced within their own country.

But the report notes that the estimate is a "very conservative" one, and the true total could be as high as 60 million.

Still, the report states that the 38 million figure exceeds the number displaced by every war or disaster since the start of the 20th century, bar the Second World War.

The two-decade war in Afghanistan, which came to a stunning end with the Taliban's swift takeover of the country earlier in August, displaced some 5.9 million people, with around a third becoming refugees or asylum seekers in another country, according to the report.

"Right now, we're witnessing a mass displacement event," Vine told Newsweek. "Even prior to the last week, there were 30,000 people fleeing their homes per week in Afghanistan. Almost surely that rate has increased in the last week."

Displaced Afghans look through a fence
Displaced Afghans look through a fence at a makeshift IDP (internally displaced person) camp in Shahr-e Naw park to various mosques and schools on August 12, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The number of people displaced in and from Afghanistan is topped by the 9.2 million people from Iraq who have been displaced since the U.S. invaded the country in 2003. Another 7.1 million people have been displaced in and from Syria since 2014.

The report states that around 26.7 million people have returned after being displaced. But it adds that return "does not erase the trauma of displacement or mean the displaced necessarily have returned to their original homes or a secure homes."

Children who were born in displacement who follow their parents home are also among those counted as "returnees," the report notes.

And the report also notes that while the U.S. has accepted hundreds of thousands of refugees, the vast majority have been taken in by countries in the greater Middle East.

"I think in the United States in particular, there's been far too little attention to the human impact of the war in Afghanistan and the other post-9/11 wars," Vine said.

"That's part of why we think that among the other effects, people have to pay attention to the mass displacement that's been going on for the last 20 years. We have a responsibility to repair some of the damage. Assisting refugees and internally displaced people who have fled their home is an important starting point."

Vine has been calling for the U.S. to accept a million Afghan refugees over the next decade.

"To some, that may sound impossible and foolhardy," he said. "But the United States accepted more than a million Vietnamese refugees over a series of years following the end of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

"A million is sort of a minimum that we should be responsible for resettling, given the damage that our war has caused in Afghanistan."

UPDATE 8/28/21 11:15 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional comments from Vine.

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