Gringo Lost

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Smoke and minerals: Afghanistan’s “new” riches don’t matter

with 3 comments

You would think $1 trillion worth of minerals would not go unnoticed for so long. But apparently, the Pentagon believes it just “discovered” a vast wealth of minerals in Afghanistan which could be the treasure chest needed to fund the Afghan treasury (something the U.S. currently does). Sounding more like a marketing agency, the Pentagon revealed in an internal memo that the minerals offered so much potential that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium.”

Altogether this hoopla is reminiscent to Paul Wolfowitz’s proclamations at the beginning of the Iraq War that oil revenues would cover the costs of occupation and fund the transitional government.  But really, everybody knows that it would take years, if not decades, to develop Afghanistan’s mines. And even by then, the likely beneficiaries of those mines will be Afghan power-brokers (not the people) and unscrupulous investors (such as in the Chinese-Aynak copper deal).

For further reading: This subject was broached in “Who competes over failed states?


Written by gringolost

June 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

3 Responses

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  1. Agreed. Aside from the fact that it would take very long, and cost a lot, to extract these “discoveries” there are a few more points that the crack team of PR experts/archivists over at the pentagon missed.
    For one, these areas (and the trucking routes) would have to be built and secured.. something that has seemed to be a problem of late and would not be economical in the VERY least. if the theory goes that this is what justifies confrontation then someone is grasping at straws and it is insulting.
    And as far as the hideous corruption and mismanagement issue: if this is to suggest that the Karzai govt (or any current alternative) could more easily stand on its own two feet after the US withdrawal then they are sorely mistaken as well. We would just be trading on form of rentierism (in US aid) for another (Minerals)… and its not as if Central Asian states have had a problem with this sort of thing. forget dutch disease – it would never come to this. it would look more like an extreme version of the corruption and regional power struggles that we see now. the only thing that a villager, whose hearts are so on the mind of pentagon officials, would possibly see is a shiny new landrover or two speeding by his goat herd. but it isnt gonna happen anyway.
    I am a bit disappointed in the pentagon here (if this was orchestrated as suggested), not so much in their attempt to use the media to their advantage, but rather in their failure at such a sad attempt.


    June 15, 2010 at 12:27 pm

  2. Devil’s advocate here…I agree it is too early for this to take effect in terms of increased foreign investment or interest in securing a piece of those minerals. As mentioned above, there is wayyyyyy too much to be done before anything can be extracted.
    But in the long term maybe some countries could see the necessity for a secure environment in which to invest and might pony up more dough/resources for a bigger piece of the potential pie.
    Maybe the Pentagon is trying to change the view/argument for Afghanistan from anti-terrorism/global security to potential investment, especially in a global recession.
    Maybe (this is where we enter the rabbit hole) this could also change the understanding in terms of Pakistani/Indian relations. That is to say, rather than fighting a proxy war (Pakistan w/ LET & India w/ Karzai & the US) for tiny pieces of influence here and there, they can be tempered with discussions of a stake in future minerals. I dunno, but Afghan security to me makes no sense without a Pakistani/Indian peace component. Maybe there are some secret letters floating around…


    June 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

    • Yeah, I’ll stay out of that rabbit hole. But that’s a good point about changing the view of Afghanistan from a war zone to an investment opportunity. I just don’t agree with the idea of monetizing something that costs lives.


      June 18, 2010 at 11:36 am

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