The high cost of Biden's global humanitarian, military and strategic failures is adding up

In addition to the costs of industrial and military equipment abandoned by the US in other nations, money has also been spent on additional troops and supplies.

Published: May 30, 2024 11:10pm

The broken $320 million pier off the coast of Gaza is just the latest in a series of costly U.S. military and humanitarian aid mishaps under the Biden administration, following criticism for failed actions in Afghanistan, Ukraine and Niger.

Gaza – $320 million pier damaged after less than two weeks of use

The $320 million pier off the coast of Gaza was intended to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians, but rough weather and choppy seas damaged it after less than two weeks of use. U.S. taxpayers are carrying the cost of rebuilding the pier at a southern Israeli port, but it is unclear how much that will cost. The Pentagon has yet to respond to Just the News' inquiry about the pier's repair costs, but it is expected to be back up and running by next week.

The cost of the pier is more than monetary. Three U.S. Marines assigned to the mission suffered non-combat injuries last week.

In addition to the pure cost of construction, there is also the raw cost of the aid that is being given to Gazans. 

More than 1,000 metric tons of food aid was brought to Gaza by the pier for trucks to distribute before it was shut down. Although the exact cost of this food aid was not readily available, a potential baseline for costs could be $2,500 per ton, which a 2016 U.S. Air Force study found is the price of ground transport for a ton of food. This could put the cost of food at around $2.5 million.

However, Col. Ret. Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Just the News that "the pier is probably the best option" to deliver aid, considering the issues poised by land crossings and airdrops.

Tens of millions spent on airdrops

The U.S. has also conducted multiple airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza. The aforementioned Air Force study determined that the cost of airdrops is about $16,000 per ton of delivered aid.

U.S. Central Command said in April that "the U.S. has dropped approximately 855 tons of humanitarian assistance supplies." Using the 2016 cost of a ton of air delivery, as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Inflation Calculator, it appears that the airdrops into Gaza could cost the U.S. more than $17.7 million.

The air drops received heavy criticism from experts who said that it was not a practical solution. Additionally, Gaza's Hamas-run Civil Defense claimed that an airdrop killed five people in March.

"Airdrops are not a solution. They are not even a partial solution. Ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza requires all sides to arrive at an accommodation, if not an actual agreement, to open land or sea routes," Cancian wrote in an analysis of the program in March.

Oxfam, an international aid organization that has been critical of Israel, said in February that it does not support U.S. airdrops into Gaza, saying that such actions "mostly serve to relieve the guilty consciences of senior US officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risk of famine in Gaza."

Hamas terrorists have been repeatedly accused of stealing food from U.S. aid organizations. The Times of Israel quoted U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller confirming the theft

Cost is not much of a concern when it comes to supplying humanitarian aid, Cancian said. The U.S. is likely to continue providing aid to Gaza for the time being, especially considering how the latest supplemental aid package for the region includes more than $9 billion for humanitarian aid for Palestinians.

"From a cost perspective, the United States can continue to do this indefinitely," Cancian said. "Regardless of how you slice the cost, it's still relatively small compared to the political, diplomatic, and humanitarian aspects."

Niger – Leaving a $110 million U.S. base after less than a decade

The Biden administration announced last month that it would withdraw more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel from Niger, with a deadline being set earlier this month for Sept. 15, 2024. Troops had been stationed at Niger Air Base 201 for drone and counterterrorism operations because Niger is home to multiple active terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, at least two Islamic State Affiliates and at least one al-Qaida affiliate.

Construction started on Air Base 201, which is operated by U.S. Africa Command, in 2016, and it has been in use since 2019. The base is estimated to have cost about $110 million to build, and is being operated at the cost of $1 million a month.

Despite the high operating costs, a whistleblower recently said that U.S. troops at the base are lacking basic necessities such as potable water and medical care. The withdrawal comes as it appears that Russia, Iran and China are increasing their presence in the country. The cost of the withdrawal is also unclear, but will likely be available after all troops leave in September. 


Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Congress has passed five supplemental appropriations bills totaling nearly $175 billion, according to the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office. More than $30 billion of that has gone toward humanitarian aid, Cancian said.

There have been major concerns about inappropriate or unaccounted for spending in Ukraine. For example, the U.S. Defense Department Inspector General's Office released a report in January finding that more than $1 billion worth of sensitive weapons have been unaccounted for. While the $1 billion seems small in comparison to the $175 billion, the total amount of unaccounted-for spending is unclear at this time.

Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – More than $1.6 trillion over two decades

The spending in Ukraine, Niger and Gaza has paled in comparison to the money spent in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria over two decades, going as far back to the Bush Administration.

From fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2021, the U.S. spent more than $1.6 trillion in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, with the bulk of that going toward Afghanistan, according to a 2022 Defense Department report.

When the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in August 2021, it left around an estimated $90 billion worth of equipment in the Taliban-controlled country. The equipment was intended for the Afghan security forces to use, but Afghans who fought alongside U.S. troops said that the Taliban now controls all of the equipment except for 45 planes that were flown to Uzbekistan after the Taliban took over. The Washington Post described the withdrawal as "two weeks of chaos." 

After the American retreat, news footage of Afghans desperately clinging to the wheels of a cargo jet leaving Kabul shocked millions of viewers around the globe.

From 2001 to 2021, the U.S. spent nearly $850 billion in Afghanistan, according to the 2022 report.

Additionally, since the withdrawal, the U.S. "has appropriated or otherwise made available $17.19 billion in assistance to Afghanistan and to Afghan refugees," according to the most recent quarterly report to Congress from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The Afghan casualties from war equipment have not stopped just because the U.S. isn't present. From January 2022 to February 2024, more than 1,400 people died, 86% of whom were children, from the "explosive remnants of war," SIGAR reported. 

Meanwhile, Afghans are divided as to whether the U.S. should keep providing aid to Afghanistan. While there is great need in the country, some feel that the assistance may inadvertently bolster the Taliban. One former Afghan official said that disabled soldiers and the families of soldiers who were killed fighting for U.S.-backed forces are no longer receiving aid.

A major cost driver for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the cost of U.S. troops on the ground, Cancian also said. Additionally, most of the military aid is spent in the United States, he said. For example, if a tank from U.S. inventory is sent to Ukraine, money is used to buy another newer tank for the U.S. troops, and that money goes to U.S.-based factories and to employ Americans.

The continued expenditure of blood and treasure -- in Gaza and around the world -- is a question that has been particularly highlighted in either party's political campaigns, but whoever emerges as the winner will have to face difficult military, humanitarian and logistical choices. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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