While I'm happy for the impoverished and generally miserable people of Afghanistan, the news that their country contains vast mineral wealth may not bode well for the war torn country.
The US has assumed a paternal role in Afghanistan's future after its invasion in 2001. It has occupied the country for almost 10 years under the pretext that it is 'fighting the terrorists so they won't attack us here', installing a puppet government and fighting a patchy counter insurgency war with limited effect. No one quite believes the official story (was it a response to 9/11 or a move to get rid of the Taleban?), and the US strategy has been confused at best, and down right idiotic at worst. There seemed to be little point in subjugating the feral nation that bested the Soviet Union in its heyday, and the calls for troops to come home have increased as the US body count multiplied.
But now there is money to be made in the region we can expect a new vigor in US policy towards the country. According to the NY Times:
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
The idea that Afghanistan will be left alone to determine what to do with its resources is simply unthinkable. The US has poured billions of dollars into bending it to its will, and it will pounce on any chance to exploit the region if it thinks it can make a profit.
What can we expect?
Conor Friedersdorf outlines the future:
The United States cannot help Afghanistan exploit its newly discovered
mineral resources without being corrupted by proximity to the vast
riches they're likely to bring. It is especially imprudent to assign a
leadership role to the Pentagon, an institution shrouded in official
secrecy, largely captured by special interests inside America's
military-industrial complex, and lacking any precedent to suggest it is
capable of the task.
Nor is it particularly reassuring to
imagine another branch of the American government working with corrupt
Afghan officials to develop a mining industry in the country, especially
since profitability is years away, which itself gives the United States
a perverse incentive to extend our war in that nation.
Unfortunately, the longest war in US history might have just gotten longer.