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Afghanistan, the Saudi Arabia of lithium?

By       Message Paul Fitzgerald Elizabeth Gould       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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It seems that Afghanistan is a never ending font of surprises. For decades U.S. officials took the position that Afghanistan held nothing of value for the United States, especially in the form of vital strategic resources. That assumption was a major reason for America's consistently dismissive attitude towards Afghanistan up until the Soviet invasion of 1979 and why the U.S. was content to turn the country over to Pakistan and Saudi Arabian interests following the Soviet departure. Then on June 13, 2010 the New York Times in a front-page story reported how a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists had suddenly discovered a vast treasure of Afghanistan's mineral wealth worth nearly $1 trillion dollars.

But the story of Afghanistan's mineral wealth isn't a new one nor did the Pentagon just "discover" it. According to a Reuters report of March 16, 2009, over a year ago, Afghanistan's minister of mines Mohammed Ibrahim Adel cited U.S. Geological Survey Data in declaring that "In the field of minerals, Afghanistan is the richest country in the region, much more, hundreds of times more."

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Even the New York Times' story admits that the survey information, on which the Pentagon assessment was based, came from data collected by Soviet mining experts nearly 30 years ago. American geologists became aware of it in 2004, but the data languished until 2009.

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But the most revealing quote in the Pentagon report wasn't so much that Afghanistan did indeed contain a vast wealth of minerals or even that the U.S. had carelessly overlooked a vast source of wealth for an impoverished nation. No. The key to understanding the report was framed by the reference that "Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium,'" and Saudi Arabia is where the real story behind the headlines begins.

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has been used to as a model for Afghanistan's future. One might go so far as to say today's Afghanistan and its Taliban scourge already bears the stamp of being made in Saudi Arabia.

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According to author, Gerald Posner in his book, Secrets of the Kingdom, the anti-Soviet Afghan war was as much a godsend for the Saudi Royal family as it was for the Afghan Islamists. "Some prominent Saudi officials, like Prince Bandar, as well as his father, defense minister Prince Sultan, saw the Soviet aggression as a chance to form a closer bond with Washington. It was a rare chance, they argued to other Saudi ministers, to replace Israel as America's strategic partner in the Middle East. And as far as the Americans were concerned, the Saudis had suddenly become a cash cow."

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Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice,a novel. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband (more...)
 

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