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Annual Iraq war cost has doubled since '03

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The annual cost of the Iraq war has more than doubled between 2003 and 2006, according to a new U.S. government report.

With 20,000 more troops being prepared to go to Iraq, the costs will rise even more.

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So far the United States spent $257.5 billion between 2003 and September 2006 (the end of fiscal year 2006). In 2003, the annual cost of the war was $38.8 billion. In 2006, that annual cost rose to $83.4 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The largest annual increase was spending on operations and maintenance -- housing, food, services, equipment repair and transportation. Some of the rise is associated with increased fuel costs. Some of it is associated with the pricey logistics contract with KBR, which has cost at least $15 billion so far.

Operations and maintenance accounts cost $29.9 billion in 2003. In 2006, that total was $50 billion.

Personnel costs have also seen a sharp increase. In 2003, when largely active-duty forces were used, the cost was $8 billion for military manpower. By 2006, with large numbers of reservists on the payroll -- along with their pricey combat bonuses and family health benefits -- the annual personnel cost was $14.1 billion.

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That amount will rise considerably in coming months as the United States government commits an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq, bringing the total to over 160,000 for the first time in at least three years.

The continuing toll on Army and Marine equipment, overused or destroyed in combat, raised the procurement account from $700 million in 2003 to $13 billion in 2006.

As costs have risen, the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated even with more than 300,000 Iraqi security forces trained. The GAO shows the number of monthly attacks - more than 5,000 in October 2006, compared to just over 1,000 in October 2003 -- rising proportionally to the number of Iraqi forces.

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