For $1 billion, one dictator

According to the Pentagon, that was the cost to U.S. taxpayers for Muammar el-Qaddafi’s head: $1.1 billion through September, the latest figure just out of the Defense Department.

And that’s just for the Americans.

The final totals will take some time to add up, and still do not include the State Department, CIA, and other agencies involved or other NATO and participating countries. Vice President Joe Biden said that the U.S. “spent $2 billion total and didn’t lose a single life.” NATO does not track the operational costs to each member country, but the funds directly taken from a common NATO account for Libyaoperations have totaled about $7.4 million per month for electronic warfare capabilities and $1.1 million per month for headquarters and command staff, a NATO spokesman said.

From the beginning of Operation Unified Protector in March, critics have questioned whether the U.S. could afford to open a third front. The Congressional Research Services estimate the Afghanistan war has cost nearly $500 billion so far. With Iraq, the figure easily tops $1 trillion.

In the first week of Libya operations, bombs were dropped from B-2 stealth planes flown from Missouri and roughly 200 missiles launched from submarines in the Mediterranean, causing alarm that any extended campaign would quickly cost billions more.

But after the U.S. military ramped up the operation, other NATO countries shouldered most of the air burden. Americans took a supporting role: aerial refueling tankers, electronic jamming, and surveillance.

The behind-the-scenes role was something President Obama celebrated in remarks in the Rose Garden on Thursday.

“Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives and our NATO mission will soon come to an end,” Obama said.

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