Monday, June 14, 2010

US identifies mineral wealth in Afghanistan

The British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, has said that British troops will start to leave Afghanistan next year. No stepping out of line here for 'Blighty' and, after all, Obama has already promised that the withdrawal will begin in 2011. Of course, the problem for Washington and its chums is quite simply that Simon Jenkins comment in the 'Guardian' back on the 2nd of December 2009 still holds true. He wrote: "If the Taliban commanders are wise, and they usually are in these matters, they will simply wait, controlling the country areas and killing NATO patrols with sufficient regularity to keep western public opinion demoralised. As the saying goes, NATO has the watches but the Taliban has the time." Yes, it might be a different sort of "ghost war" than the one which  Steve Coll discusses in his book.  However, we can rest assured that Uncle Sam and his minions have been chasing shadows on the Hindukush.

That is why, the news from the 'New York Times' that "the United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan" is not good news and, indeed, when, the former Bush favourite, General David H. Petraeus, talks about the "stunning potential" of the discovery, we should be more than a little sceptical about the troops leaving in the near future. After all, wasn't this the man who warned us that we should expect the war in Afghanistan to end later rather than sooner? A prediction which is at least lent some substance by the fact that even American officials are conceeding that the offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Oh, it wasn't quite the "Stalingrad" that it was sold as? Moreover, we might expect that with all of this  newfound mineral wealth the Taliban might just want to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

Finally, what appears to be lost on all of those people is that fact that although this wealth was apparently discovered by American geologists and Pentagon officials, it does belong to Afghanistan. Indeed, they really have no right to be out there looking for minerals before getting the nod from the government in Kabul. However, we can read again in the 'New York Times' that: "The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed." After the minerals were discovered it appears. Nevertheless, we can still hope that Afghanistan itself will get to decide what will happen to its own mineral wealth and with resource-hungry China next door there are very real alternatives. However, the evidence would seem to suggest that before any of those alternatives can be realised there might be a lot more lying and dying on Afghaistan's plains.

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