Afghanistan’s riches not just in poppies

posted at 10:55 am on June 14, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

For the last several years, the only possible exports from Afghanistan appeared to be heroin and Islamist terrorism.  Now, according to the New York Times, the American government knows that perhaps a trillion dollars’ worth of mineral finds might make the traditionally destitute nation a technological powerhouse, almost literally, with lithium among the finds.  It might also rewrite the history of Big Power involvement in Afghanistan, depending on how long this has been known, and by whom:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

Perhaps the Pentagon just recently discovered this, but it doesn’t mean they were the first.  My first thought on reading this was that the Soviets may have had better reasons for invading Afghanistan than first thought.  There has been no real reporting on whether the Soviets attempted to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral resources, but had they succeeded in keeping their grip on the nation, they could have found a new way to stay in business against the West rather than going bankrupt in the Cold War economic warfare that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher conducted against Moscow.

That is pure speculation, but don’t expect that to end just because the Soviet Union collapsed.  We’ve spent over eight years in Afghanistan attempting to subdue the radicals and fight those across the border in Pakistan’s frontier provinces, and many people have questioned why we’re spending so much blood and treasure in a country known for its ability to bankrupt empires.  We have plenty of good strategic reasons to attempt to salvage Afghanistan and keep it from becoming a failed state, but this find will definitely have those inclined towards conspiracy theories cranking up new plots and dark cabals as the real reason we’re attempting to salvage Afghanistan.  A trillion dollars in new mineral deposits don’t come along very often, after all, and some of these minerals will be critical to energy and military applications.

Still, this is a blessing for the Afghan people.  They will need a massive improvement in infrastructure in order to get the materials out for export, but that investment will come a lot faster with this find.   It gives them a real alternative to narco-trafficking, which because of the poverty and Stone Age infrastructure of the country, has been the only option for many Afghans.’

Update: Kevin Drum makes a good point in Mother Jones while slightly succumbing to the paranoia (via The Week):

I have a very bad feeling about this. It could quickly turn into a toxic combination of stupendous wealth, superpower conflict, oligarchs run wild, entire new levels of corruption, and a trillion new reasons for the Taliban to fight even harder. And for the cynical among us, this line from Risen’s piece — “American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan” — suggests that the Obama administration might be eagerly thinking about these discoveries as a shiny new reason to keep a military presence in Afghanistan forever.

I can hardly wait to see what Bill Kristol thinks of this.

On the other hand, maybe it represents lots of new jobs, enough money to suck away the Taliban’s foot soldiers, and the stable income base Afghanistan needs to develop a modern infrastructure. I doubt it, but you never know.

I’m not sure that the wealth would incentivize the Taliban more than their radical Islamist theology already has, but if they appear to be winning, then the less-ideological may be more inclined to join quickly and get in position to get to the wealth.  The problem in using it to “suck away the Taliban’s foot soldiers” is the years it will take to put the technological infrastructure in place to get to the riches and export them for profit.  It may be a great long-term find, but in the short run, I’m not sure it helps NATO or the US, especially politically, unless they can leverage it to get China to take a tougher stand with Iran and assist in attacking al-Qaeda and the Taliban.


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Aha! American Empire strikes again!

Dick Cheney you magnificent bastard!

pseudonominus on June 14, 2010 at 10:57 AM

NO BLOOD FOR COBALT!11!!

Good Solid B-Plus on June 14, 2010 at 10:59 AM

Well now that we’ve sank billions in the longest war in America, it’s time to outsource any monetary benefit to the Chinese so we won’t feel guilty about actually getting paid back

lm10001 on June 14, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Lithium? In Afgan?

Well Obama, this is you dream since lithium is fairly rare find and is a big answer to alternate energy. You Go Captian KickAss!

Electrongod on June 14, 2010 at 11:00 AM

And just when the Troofers began their long crawl back under the rocks, slowly they turn, step, by step……

RobCon on June 14, 2010 at 11:00 AM

If there’s money to be stolen from Afghan, the dems will be all over it. Maybe they will find a crisis there to fix.

Kissmygrits on June 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Halliburton! Big Minerals! Booosh!!

search4truth on June 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Blood for oil bad.

Blood for lithium good.

Lithium make um hybrids.

trapeze on June 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

The Bush Doctrine: “We’re only in it for the money.”

Emperor Norton on June 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

Obviously the US needs a Proconsul of Bactria to “help” the Afghans manage our…um, THEIR new riches.

sdillard on June 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

The only country where strip mining would improve the ecology…

right2bright on June 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM

This is bound to end well. After all, backward tribal Islamic cultures have such a fantastic track record of developing into modern societies after vast wealth turns up in their territories.

OhioCoastie on June 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM

yeah….whoopie….a Trillion dollars….find 14 more of these countries and we can balance Barry Hussein’s debt!!!!

SDarchitect on June 14, 2010 at 11:03 AM

Now that Obama has this potentially good news for America information he will order a total retreat from Afghanistan by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi is working on legislation that prohibits any American company from digging, extracting or profiting from any minierals found in Afghanistan.

And the bottom line…is this mineral find Bush’s fault?

albill on June 14, 2010 at 11:03 AM

I say make Afghan the new Israel and make Israel the new Afghan. Problem solved.

Electrongod on June 14, 2010 at 11:04 AM

So which Environmental group will come out and demand that Afghanistan & its people remain in the stone age in order to preserve the beautiful splendor of its sand and cliffs?

portlandon on June 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Fifty-first State Baby!

Name it East New York or West Hawaii.

LOL

skatz51 on June 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

get China to take a tougher stand with Iran

Hahahaha,

The Chinese will take a tougher stand alright. They’ll stand right to the front to get their greedy paws on all that stuff.

Hint: The Chinese are not nice people who will try to help anyone but themselves to everything that isn’t nailed down.

CrazyGene on June 14, 2010 at 11:07 AM

Just what we need, jihadists with mineral wealth to join the jihadists with petroleum wealth….

paulsur on June 14, 2010 at 11:10 AM

this line from Risen’s piece — “American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan” — suggests that the Obama administration might be eagerly thinking about these discoveries as a shiny new reason to keep a military presence in Afghanistan forever.

Great! Just what we need is another full fledged volly of HALLIBURTON from the left.

Rovin on June 14, 2010 at 11:10 AM

I say we mine the heck out of the place until we’ve gotten enough cash to cover all of the expenses of 9/11, and then get permanent mineral rights for the families of the people murdered on 9/11 and every American man who has fighting in Afghanista since 9/11.

myrenovations on June 14, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Lithium czar in 5……4…….3…..

cmsinaz on June 14, 2010 at 11:11 AM

Sorry, Ed, but I disagree. I believe that having a 21st century mining and industrial development operation with well-paying jobs in this god-forsaken sh!thole would remove virtually all of the attraction of both drugs and religious zealotry via suihomicide.

Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead said in response to criticism that the band had “sold out” in the making of their album Shakedown Street that they had been willing to sell out for years, but no one was buying.

How could these 7th century Afghan retards be any different?

Jaibones on June 14, 2010 at 11:12 AM

No Blood For Lithium!!!

Jaibones on June 14, 2010 at 11:13 AM

Lithium make um hybrids.

trapeze on June 14, 2010 at 11:01 AM

I thought lithium was the “up” in the early “7UP”.

So which Environmental group will come out and demand that Afghanistan & its people remain in the stone age in order to preserve the beautiful splendor of its sand and cliffs?

Try: http://www.mineyourownbusiness.org/

oldleprechaun on June 14, 2010 at 11:13 AM

In a reasonable world, this would provide the economic base and incentive to police that patch of mountains in order to keep prevent terrorists from training there.

Count to 10 on June 14, 2010 at 11:14 AM

One Trillion Dollars? Mission accomplished!

Emperor Norton on June 14, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Oh great….another well financed terrorist state.

Wine_N_Dine on June 14, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Coming soon to YouTube: jump-suit wearing Afghan miners performing dance routines for music videos to Michael Jackson songs, while on their lunch/prayer breaks from the Lithium mine.

Jaibones on June 14, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Goody! A stone age society and culture given sudden riches allowing it to spread the concept of sharia law while it exploits technological gifts shared by the countries it is attempting to destroy. We’ve seen this movie before.

a capella on June 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

If there’s not enough security, there won’t be any mining operation, and if there are no mining operations, there’s no money. It’s great for those who want security and stability. Now, security and stability are highly profitable, and that’s something Afghanis understand. They don’t necessary love law and order, but they love money.

RBMN on June 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Oh great! Another Muslim run country where they’ll kill you if you convert to Christianity is going to be swimming in money. What could go wrong?

Mojave Mark on June 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

skatz51 on June 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

Swinopolis

Amadeus on June 14, 2010 at 11:17 AM

Uh folks? I wouldn’t go too crazy over this find just yet. Afghanistan has pretty much zero infrastructure to go out and actually start mining the stuff. There are about zero heavy rail lines into and out of the country, and without those in place you are going to get two things from all of this, Jack and Squat. Maybe about 10 years of super heavy investement in infrastructure will see some of this starting to come out of the ground, but probably not.

Johnnyreb on June 14, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Considering the hyper security you would need to protect your mining facilities, workers, and transportation assets from the savages, I’m thinking this $1 trillion would be worth a third of that once it actually reaches market.

Ever seen the Saudi security set up around their oil facilities, and they aren’t in an active war zone.

Bishop on June 14, 2010 at 11:19 AM

Oh great….another well financed terrorist state.

Wine_N_Dine on June 14, 2010 at 11:15 AM

I don’t know — minerals aren’t as easy to get at as oil, so there isn’t as much of a found-wealth quality to it. You actually have to do some honest work to get at it, not just drill one hole in the ground and pour it into barrels.

Count to 10 on June 14, 2010 at 11:20 AM

slowly they turn, step, by step……

RobCon on June 14, 2010 at 11:00 AM

LOL. I just watched videos on youtube…

craziness

jaime on June 14, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Lithium? Oh sure, fine…

But do they have any Unobtanium and will getting it involve sweaty blue-monkey sex?

trapeze on June 14, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Freeport II?

Papua hasn’t exactly blossomed as a result of mining operations there. It takes something other than a large infusion of money to change a society–not that they’re getting any of the money, either.

TexasDan on June 14, 2010 at 11:20 AM

Based on his past actions, he will do everything in his power to keep the United States from this find. He has done all within his power to collapse this country. This discovery will be abandoned for other countries that are more to his liking to take advantage of.

CC

CapedConservative on June 14, 2010 at 11:21 AM

my guess is the soviets knew this, and we found out through them someway when we went in to begin with and have hold off this long in announcing this all because of politics.

Michael Moore, Ron Paul and Alex Jones will have to re-word this conspiracy theory of theirs:

http://screwloosechange.blogspot.com/2007/11/ron-paul-on-afghanistan-oil-pipelines.html

JW: What about Afghanistan? Would you continue the operations there?

RON PAUL: No, I would come home, unless there was specific knowledge of where Osama bin Laden was. Then I send out just a small team of people to take care of him. I would not maintain the occupation of Afghanistan. That was mainly motivated by oil pipelines and some other things that are never discussed.

JW: Could you elaborate a little bit how oil pipelines were the motivation for going into Afghanistan?

RON PAUL: It’s been known that certain oil companies were anxious for many, many years to be able to transverse Afghanistan to move natural gas. And that effort is still alive and well. Too often, whether it’s a pipeline in Afghanistan or control of oil wells in Iraq, oil and economics motivates our national policy much more so than national security.

jp on June 14, 2010 at 11:22 AM

A lot of the folks who had weapons that we weren’t allowed to shot at were tribes with heavy weapons to protect their mines. In Koust, (RC East near the Paki border) A DSKA (Dishka) was set up on a mountain very near FOP Salerno. The aircrews wanted to take them out bad. But, when the ANP went and investigated, it was just that. A tribe protecting their mine. After that, you could fly by and they’d wave at you.

hawkdriver on June 14, 2010 at 11:24 AM

I say we mine the heck out of the place until we’ve gotten enough cash to cover all of the expenses of 9/11, and then get permanent mineral rights for the families of the people murdered on 9/11 and every American man who has fighting in Afghanista since 9/11.

myrenovations on June 14, 2010 at 11:11 AM

if we were a real empire, this is exactly what we’d do.

instead, we will say its the property of afghanistan and work with them to contract the work out to various companies, many of whom will be Chinese and Russian

jp on June 14, 2010 at 11:25 AM

One Trillion Dollars! Bring the military home, send in Goldman Sachs.

Emperor Norton on June 14, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Ever seen the Saudi security set up around their oil facilities, and they aren’t in an active war zone.

Bishop on June 14, 2010 at 11:19 AM

I dunno. The African warlords seem to handle security in the diamond mines they exploit just fine. It may be a bit more brutal and permanent than western standards call for. I say, send over some Mexican drug cartels to maintain order.

a capella on June 14, 2010 at 11:26 AM

It’s time for Iraq to give back. They need to send a contingent of people to Afghanistan to convince their coreligionists that the US is the only superpower that can be trusted.

Kafir on June 14, 2010 at 11:26 AM

This is not California Gold Rush mining. This is complicated large-scale industrial mining. It will require importing lots of skilled people from other countries. The Taliban is not going to benefit from it, because they have nothing to offer. The only thing they offer is extortion. They’re going to get run out of town by the other people–the ones trying to get rich.

RBMN on June 14, 2010 at 11:26 AM

0 will probably work an agreement with Russia to come in and take it hoping they will agree on some future issue, along with sharing it with the ‘moderate’ Taliban in Pakistan. Afghan’s share? Forget it.

Oleta on June 14, 2010 at 11:28 AM

Something tells me we’re not out of there any time soon. Look for Obama’s military deadline to quietly go the way of the dodo.

Interesting how God has apportioned resources so that we must interact with toxic cultural ideologies. It’s almost like He loves the people imprisoned in them, and wants the Word of Truth to reach them – through us.

paul1149 on June 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM

I’m thinkin’ one of the first things that should be funded is an Afghani Fannie Mae operation so everyone could own their own home. A perfect job for Cris Dodd in his retirement. Social justice.

a capella on June 14, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Dear US illegal aliens and Mexican drug lords; Move to Afganistan.

The population there is only 28 million. If the 12 – 20 million of you moved there, you would OWN the country and be billionaires.

barnone on June 14, 2010 at 11:32 AM

Interesting how God has apportioned resources so that we must interact with toxic cultural ideologies. It’s almost like He loves the people imprisoned in them, and wants the Word of Truth to reach them – through us.

paul1149 on June 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM

yep, whether we like it or not we have no choice but to interact with the Middle East and places like Afghanistan.

jp on June 14, 2010 at 11:34 AM

This is bound to end well. After all, backward tribal Islamic cultures have such a fantastic track record of developing into modern societies after vast wealth turns up in their territories.
OhioCoastie on June 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM

This has happened dozens of times: Third-World nations sign lucrative licensing contracts for natural resources. And then after billions of dollars of investment in prospecting, infrastructure, mining and drilling,they suddenly remember that all the people investing in their countries are “evil capitalist pigdogs,” turn to Socialism, void all the contracts, and confiscate all foriegn investment.

But with Islamic countries, the story is completely different. They call the victims of their theft “evil capitalist infidel pigdogs.”

logis on June 14, 2010 at 11:36 AM

Hopefully we will get more of of this than we did with Iraqi oil.

Mr. Joe on June 14, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Sorry, Ed, but I disagree. I believe that having a 21st century mining and industrial development operation with well-paying jobs in this god-forsaken sh!thole would remove virtually all of the attraction of religious zealotry via suihomicide.

We have a real life model of the exact opposite in Saudi Arabia. That is an oil rich nation that redistributes it wealth amongst it’s citizens, and yet, it is Jihad central. The facts don’t jive with your expectations.

paulsur on June 14, 2010 at 11:38 AM

It’s one thing to know it’s there but Afghanistan barely has the infrastructure to function let alone exploit mineral wealth. It may as well be on the moon right now. Maybe that’ll change in time but I doubt it as a lot of this stuff is in areas heavily contested by AQ/Taliban forces.

Yakko77 on June 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Double meaning video commentary

Shy Guy on June 14, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Re: the Soviets and Afghan minerals.

At the time of the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan had the world’s fifth largest gold hoard (after the U.S. Russia, Switzerland, and maybe the UK). The communists took it to Moscow for “safe-keeeping.” The Soviet-Afghan war was arguably conceived as an act of theft, and it was many years (five?) before the cost of the war exceeded the value of the gold stolen.At the time the WSJ called Afghanistan the Switzerland of Asia and said that it was both orderly and reasonably prosperous pre-Soviet. After more than 40 years of war, it is substantially destroyed.

levi from queens on June 14, 2010 at 11:43 AM

This is not California Gold Rush mining. This is complicated large-scale industrial mining. It will require importing lots of skilled people from other countries. The Taliban is not going to benefit from it, because they have nothing to offer. The only thing they offer is extortion. They’re going to get run out of town by the other people–the ones trying to get rich.

RBMN on June 14, 2010 at 11:26 AM

This could be an opportunity to use Smart Power, or the Power of Smarts. Let the U.S. and NATO allies negotiate with the Karzai government to allow industries from America and European countries (at least those supplying troops) to develop these resources, with a guarantee of royalties for the Afghan government if it agrees to protect the mining installations from the Taliban, and well-paying jobs for Afghan workers.

The question becomes, is there any Smart Power left after January 20, 2009?

Steve Z on June 14, 2010 at 11:46 AM

It may be a great long-term find, but in the short run, I’m not sure it helps NATO or the US…

Suddenly, winning in Afghanistan becomes a lot more complex.

petefrt on June 14, 2010 at 11:47 AM

Still not buying an electric box on wheels!

OldEnglish on June 14, 2010 at 11:54 AM

We should immediately give the mineral rights to Russia and China, that would only be fair…

rgranger on June 14, 2010 at 11:58 AM

AS IF the mineral deposits are only now being discovered. More likely, news of the discovery is now discovered via leaks waiting for the opportune moment to stimulate Western “greed”. As if investing in Afghanistan mining can justify the incongruous rationale to “win the hearts and minds of the enemy”.

Afghani regional mineral deposits are not scientific surprises, as globally they specifically are expected to occur in those mountainous terrains.

This would explain the real WHY Obama won’t remove our forces from Afghanistan, as if the Afghan tribes will EVER accommodate Western interests, as if Obama has our nation’s security and best interests at heart over his globalist ambitions. As with NASA, our military is being used/abused to vault globalist governance.

So far as the Elitists/Marxists are concerned, as with their Medieval precursors, WE THE PEOPLE are only surfs and pawns to be used and abused by feudal overlords.

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Great. Free money for a Muslim country. It fixes everything, ya know, like oil in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Sweet.

And they need to keep their lithium, they need it.

29Victor on June 14, 2010 at 12:09 PM

This is bound to end well. After all, backward tribal Islamic cultures have such a fantastic track record of developing into modern societies after vast wealth turns up in their territories.

OhioCoastie on June 14, 2010 at 11:02 AM

That was perfectly wrought!

roy_batty on June 14, 2010 at 12:10 PM

Is it just me. Or does it seem to you too that Allah provides for his stupid lazy followers by providing wealth right under their feet.

Second look at Islam?

tommylotto on June 14, 2010 at 12:12 PM

The new Iraqi government has never reimbursed US tax funds spent either on their liberation or the subsequent security.

Afghans will never tolerate any of their nation’s wealth extended to reimburse US tax payers whose military, so far as Afghans are concerned, is occupying their tribal territories and fronting a most corrupt excuse for a government, namely Karzai.

What has already been an ugly war is about to become too heinous with every gawking power monger making plays to “win” the jackpot. All the while, we have the most corrupt POTUS ever running our show.

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Umm guys.

I know this sounds petty but you do realize that the USGS talked about this in 2007, under Bush… right?

Maybe this is just a red herring? I think so!

upinak on June 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM

This makes nine years of spending and death worth while? For who? I imagine Pakistan just found another reason to f*ck the West over day after day.

BL@KBIRD on June 14, 2010 at 12:17 PM

upinak

Exactly. The timing and the phraseology, divert attention away from our own Gulf disaster made epic by Obama himself with his golf club up his derriere.

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM

I know this sounds petty but you do realize that the USGS talked about this in 2007, under Bush… right?

Maybe this is just a red herring? I think so!

upinak on June 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Obama has to use everything at his disposal to deflect his ineptness. Just playing politics and hoping we don’t notice how incompetent he truly is.

bopbottle on June 14, 2010 at 12:23 PM

upinak on June 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Good find but until Afghanistan is able to not only exploit those minerals and get them to those who can utilize and pay for them let alone secure the area they’re in then it’s as if those resources aren’t even there.

Yakko77 on June 14, 2010 at 12:24 PM

The problem in using it to “suck away the Taliban’s foot soldiers” is the years it will take to put the technological infrastructure in place to get to the riches and export them for profit.

But… you need manpower to build that infrastructure, just as you need manpower to utilize it. The point is, there will be investment by big mineral companies almost immediately as soon as the specific areas are deemed secure, and that means jobs will commence forthwith.

joe_doufu on June 14, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Yakko77 on June 14, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Yak but they ARE already starting on the process. They started in 2007 actually. They have people here in the U.S. helping them with how to do permits, mining regulations pertaining to their regions. No one mentioned THAT in the article. Also there are 3 mines waiting to start and have the help of 2 warring “tribes” willing to work out their differences and start the mining operations. A large pit mine actually. They are learning to drive large trucks. The one company is from india.

You have to research it to know… but I have friends in the field. Also, this is very weird as the mining in Australia is at a total stand still…. why? I think it has to do with not just a red herring but a stalling of multiple national economies.

upinak on June 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM

They have people here in the U.S. helping them with how to do permits, mining regulations pertaining to their regions.

upinak on June 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Thanks for the info but I can’t help but wonder what I find more surprising. That this is actually a work in progress or that Afghanistan actually has a “regulations and permits” process regarding such things.

Yakko77 on June 14, 2010 at 12:34 PM

I think this puts context into why someone (Pakistan, definitely—Russia? China?) out there keeps funding the Taliban in their fight against the US.

Sekhmet on June 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM

upinak on June 14, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Good find!

petefrt on June 14, 2010 at 12:37 PM

This is not California Gold Rush mining. This is complicated large-scale industrial mining. It will require importing lots of skilled people from other countries. The Taliban is not going to benefit from it, because they have nothing to offer. The only thing they offer is extortion. They’re going to get run out of town by the other people–the ones trying to get rich.

RBMN on June 14, 2010 at 11:26 AM

If you’ve ever seen an open-pit mine in operation, you’ll know that no semi-literate poppy farmer is going to get a job driving a 60 cubic yard rock-truck. They might be able to load holes for shooting rock but that’s about it. In a modern mine, unskilled labor is just an accident waiting to happen.

lonesomecharlie on June 14, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Perhaps someone should dole out Lithium, with its mood-stabilizing qualities, to the Taliban and other raging Jihadists. We might enjoy world peace at last! Just save a little for Al Gore.

Buy Danish on June 14, 2010 at 2:01 PM

No, U.S. Didn’t Just ‘Discover’ $1T Afghan Motherlode

Despite what you may read this morning, the U.S. military did not just “discover” a trillion dollars’ worth of precious minerals in Afghanistan.

freedomplow on June 14, 2010 at 2:07 PM

Great set of picture of back when Afghanistan was a normal country:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/27/once_upon_a_time_in_afghanistan?page=0,0

pedestrian on June 14, 2010 at 2:14 PM

In the case of Afghanistan, the USGS has apparently invested significant resources into mapping the mineral wealth, but it’s unclear whether private mining companies were involved as well — leaving open the question of whether the U.S. will get a cut of any development.

We’re expected to be enraged with that, so as to support Obama’s Afghan War?

Nothing Obama touches will bode well for the USA.

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 2:24 PM

If there’s not enough security, there won’t be any mining operation, and if there are no mining operations, there’s no money. It’s great for those who want security and stability. Now, security and stability are highly profitable, and that’s something Afghanis understand. They don’t necessary love law and order, but they love money.

RBMN on June 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

I was thinking we could use remotely controlled robots to perform the extraction. Operators back here on Earth in the US would operate the robots from a virtual environment.

pedestrian on June 14, 2010 at 2:24 PM

pedestrian

Exactly, the Middle East prior to Jimmy Carter’s implicit deposition of the Shah of Iran in 1979, prior to the assassination of Egypt’s President Sadat in 1981, prior to the Turkish forfeiture of being an independent secular state, prior to either the USSR or the USA wars in Afghanistan and ours in Iraq, as all Muslims enable the globalization of a Sharia Law theocracy, whether through radical activism or simply standing aside.

The new Iraqi democratic government tortures prisoners, so how does anyone (Bush/Cheney) justify our destroying Hussein’s SECULAR government as “making the world a safer place” now that Iraq’s majority Shiite sect aligned with the Iranian theocracy rule the day there? Where the native Coptic Christians survived since the earliest Christian missionary era, it only took Bush’s “compassion” delivering Muslim democracy (majority sect rules) to the Middle East (NOT to deliver a democratic REPUBLIC) to obliterate the native Christian population in a US sponsored effective genocide. How does their extinction make the world a better place? Shouldn’t that “compassion” have been spent on preserving and protecting the Christian population STILL suffering the worst genocide possible in Dafur?

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 2:45 PM

They don’t necessary love law and order, but they love money.

RBMN on June 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM

The mountain Afghan Tribes DO love “law and order” according to their own Muslim traditions. Those traditional laws run contrary to “progress” because tradition is the only “virtue”. To Muslims, authoritarianism is a virtue.

The lust for money runs across the board of humans, regardless of country, race or tribe. Nonetheless, POWER centered within urbanized cities, aka sophisticated “civilization”, is where corruption already literally rules the day from central governance.

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 2:52 PM

Nothing new about rehash, taking the fight over there.

maverick muse on June 14, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Gee, kind of like what the tinfoil hat brigade’s been saying for years.

Fancy that.

Guess few people ever stopped to think why the Soviet Union was so interested in Afghanistan?

Dr. ZhivBlago on June 14, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Assume for a minute that the reports are correct. That there is a trillion dollars worth of valuable, easily recovered minerals.

Assume for a minute that the government / society of Afghanistan actually allow the minerals to be recovered in a practical manner.

Assume for a minute that they could pull them all out tomorrow and sell them all the next day.

That money would cover 7% of the (future) taxpayer money that 0bama has spent in the last year and a half.

Call me underwhelmed.

LegendHasIt on June 14, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Ahhh, now I understand. We’re still in Afghanistan because Obama wants their Lithium./sarcasm

shick on June 14, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Taken together all those -istan countries form something analogous to Alaska – a huge wonderland of copious natural resources and spectacular countryside. It’s in Brzezinski’s book “Grand Chessboard” which was an eye opener for me.

Explains why Obama and his successors will continue the course set decades ago to make sure West friendly states dominate that whole region. Goes at least back to Harold Mackinder’s writings around 1904 on the concept of Eurasia as the pivotal state.

With that geo-historical background, Mackinder identified the northern-central core of Euro-Asia as the “pivot region” or “pivot state” of world politics. He placed Germany, Austria, Turkey, India and China, lands immediately adjacent to the pivot region, in an “inner crescent,” and the insular nations of Britain, South Africa, Australia, the United States, Canada and Japan in an “outer crescent.” He then warned that, “[t]he oversetting of the balance of power in favour of the pivot state, resulting in its expansion over the marginal lands of Euro-Asia, would permit the use of vast continental resources for fleet-building, and the empire of the world would then be in sight.” Mackinder suggested that either a Russo-German alliance or a Sino-Japanese empire (which conquered Russian territory) could contend for world hegemony.

http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Is … _mac1.html

The more things change the more they stay the same…

E9RET on June 14, 2010 at 5:07 PM

So how long until foreign investors build all those mines and infrastructure and the Afghani govt decides to just ‘take it back’?

clement on June 14, 2010 at 5:09 PM

It may be a great long-term find, but in the short run, I’m not sure it helps NATO or the US, especially politically, unless they can leverage it to get China to take a tougher stand with Iran and assist in attacking al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the short run it does not help the Taliban either. After all, without the West they can really exploit these resources.

Terrye on June 14, 2010 at 5:46 PM

This is a curse. I hope it stays in the ground. Wealth doesn’t sooth terrorist tempers. Did the oil in Saudi Arabia suck the foot soldiers out of the Wahhabi movement? Did all the oil in Iran suck the foot soldiers out of the Basij? The family fortune and a western education only further radicalized Bin Laden.

bitsy on June 14, 2010 at 6:08 PM

These resources have been known about since at least the early 70’s.

From Politico:

““The ‘discovery’ of Afghanistan’s minerals will sound pretty silly to old timers,” one retired former senior U.S. official based in Afghanistan writes. “When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970’s the [U.S. government], the Russians, the World Bank, the UN and others were all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposits….

“In the early 70′s the USG had an old FDR New-Deal planner/economist – Bob Nathan – working with the Afghan Ministry of Plans to work out a fifty year mineral exploitation program,” the former official said. “When the Russians came in they picked up Bob’s plans and extended them. So this is anything but a ‘new discovery….’”

Sort of changes the widespread political meme about US, USSR and their Afghan strategies.

Bill Blizzard on June 15, 2010 at 12:02 AM