NBC News and news services
updated 10/24/2007 6:36:46 PM ET 2007-10-24T22:36:46

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost as much as $2.4 trillion through the next decade, according to a new analysis Wednesday that the White House brushed off as "speculation."

The analysis, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, provides the most comprehensive and far-reaching estimate to date, taking into account costs previously not counted and assuming large number of forces would remain in the regions.

According to CBO, the U.S. has spent about $600 billion to date on both wars, including $39 billion in diplomatic operations and foreign aid.

If the U.S. cuts the number of troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to 75,000 six years from now, it would cost the U.S. another $1 trillion for military and diplomatic operations and $705 billion in interest payments to pay for the wars through 2017.

Democrats say voters won't stand for it, and so they would consider paying for the military campaigns in brief installments, instead of full one-year terms.

According to NBC News, CBO Director Peter Orszag met with members of the House Budget committee on Wednesday and told them, "It's clear under analysis that the nation is on an unstable fiscal path ... with the higher debt and interest costs."

The White House brushed off the estimate as too conditional.

"It's just a ton of speculation," said White House press secretary Dana Perino. "We don't know how much the war is going to cost in the future."

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said voters were suffering from "sticker shock."

"America's future is being held hostage by the cost of the war," he said.

Orszag said a big factor in the increasing price tag for the wars is a shift in Pentagon spending on worn, damaged or destroyed equipment. A CBO study found that, rather than repairing or replacing damaged tanks and other vehicles, the military is upgrading or getting something new.

Orszag used the example of the 120 M-182 tanks that are included in the Pentagon's new funding request.

"At the cost of $5 million per tank, this cost is more than returning the damaged tank to its original state," he said. "If you fully fund these requests, the military will be in a better position in terms of equipment than before the war.

NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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