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The Mineral Find in Afghanistan, Justification to Remain Indefinitely!?

Message Dave Lefcourt
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According to American government officials, Afghanistan has been found to have "nearly $ 1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits" includes huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium."[1]

This mostly unknown and under reported "discovery" began rather inconspicuously in 2004 when a small team of American geologists "stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country."[2] They had been placed there by Afghan geologists in 2001 after the American invasion, (during the Taliban rule in the 1990's these geologists took them and protected them in their homes, returning them only after the Taliban had been removed). The Americans learned from the discovery of the charts that they were originally "collected by the Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980's, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989."[3]

With this discovery, (but without any great urgency), "the U.S. Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan's mineral resources in 2006."[4] More studies were done in 2007 but the results languished "for two more years."[5]

Then in 2009 a Pentagon task force that had been in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan and they "came upon the geological data which no one had sought to translate and to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits."[6]

With this analysis in hand the Pentagon "brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey's findings."[7] One of the geologists said, "they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers"very, very promising"pretty amazing."[8]

Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been briefed and General David Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command leader when interviewed on Saturday said, "I think potentially it is hugely significant."[9]

Well to this observer, there exists a distinct uneasy tingling sensation of muffled alarm bells ringing that this potential mineral mother lode find is the ploy for the U.S. to exploit, justify its continuing presence in the country indefinitely, while portraying itself as a benevolent partner with good intentions, just there to help the Afghan people.

If I were an Afghan I would beware of this "friend" selling potential riches for me.

This land of ancient tribal culture, subsistence living, warlord dominated, endemic corruption, a harsh unsparing concept of Islam that seems peculiar only to it (although possibly resembling the Wahhabist sect in Saudi Arabia and their harsh interpretation of Islamic Law (Sharia).

Then there is the immense Taliban presence among the majority Pashtun population who resist all foreign presence in their country. It seems unimaginable the Taliban would accept any foreign led exploitation of resources within its midst.

Lastly, there is no significant mining industry within all of Afghanistan. If there is to be development of this "find" it would seemingly involve corruption on a vast scale that will exploit the Afghan people while affording little direct benefit to them. Imagine, poppy growers, subsistence farmers and goat herders becoming miners with hard hats?

It all feels similar to bringing "civilization and development" to the primitive peoples deep in the Amazon rainforest. Their culture has been all but destroyed along with the gradual decimation of the rainforest.

That is the unmistakable, foreboding sense from this corner; the beginning of a new dark chapter in Afghanistan that the "find" of unexploited mineral wealth will bring nothing good for its people.

[1] "U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan", by James Risen, "The New York Times", June 13, 2010.

[2] See footnote #1

[3] See footnote #1

[4] See footnote #1

[5] See footnote #1

[6] See footnote #1

[7] See footnote #1

[8] See footnote #1

[9] See Footnote #1

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