Following the 9/11 attacks, almost 20 years ago, the United States witnessed one of the largest restructurings of government in its history and implemented a multitude of domestic and international policies aimed at combatting terrorism.

The cost has been overwhelming: By the end of fiscal year 2020, the taxpayers’ total commitment to war was an estimated $6.4 trillion. Over 7,000 U.S. military personnel have died in foreign military campaigns and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East were killed as a result of the conflicts in their countries.

But even this record fails to account for the full costs of the war on terror. These policies have directly fueled the expansion of far-right extremist groups and led to their progressive militarization, while drastically eroding our civil liberties.

How can this be so?

The war on terror has resulted in a sharp increase in military deployments—more than 5.4 million between 2001 and 2015. U.S. military personnel spent more than 1.5 million troop-years in Afghanistan alone. The number of enlisted military personnel, however, has remained relatively constant. This combination has led military officials to worry about meeting recruitment targets, and commanders have applied immense pressure on recruiters to comply.