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Does This Mean We Never Leave? $1 Trillon Mineral Find in Afghanistan

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The New York Times reports on a monster find of minerals in Afghanistan, some of them strategic (hat tip reader Francois T):

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…..

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

Yves here. Translation: if we make the Afghanis affluent enough, they’ll be happy the US is there and getting its cut for showing them the way.

I suspect there is a wee problem with that line of thinking. First, the US does not have much credibility with the locals. We made promises to the locals to obtain their support against the Soviets, then failed to deliver. We’ve backed Karzai, who is widely regarded as a crook and a thug. The US troops are not merely not welcome, they don’t even remotely control the countryside. We pointed earlier in the week to this revealing remark in the Washington Post:

…a crucial campaign …will take longer than planned because local Afghans do not yet welcome the military-run operation.

“When you go to protect people, the people have to want you to protect them,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Thursday in explaining why the Kandahar operation has been pushed back until at least September.

“It’s a deliberative process. It takes time to convince people,” he told reporters at a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels.

Yves here. Let me translate again: the natives resent the US presence and want them out. Our resident historian (military and otherwise)/analyst Richard Kline pointed in turn to an unintentionally damning piece in the Christian Science Monitor and provided this take:

Here are a few points in takeaway, directly from statements of joes in the 12th infantry a few miles outside Kandahar.

1) They absolutely do _not_ control the countryside.

2) The Taliban engage them—when they want to, where they want to, as they want to—not the other way around.

3) The occupiers are engaged in an attritional contest where everywhere they go is now mined and they lose a steady, bloody drip of casualties anytime they move.

4) The Taliban have received heavy reinforcements from outside the region which the occupiers are unable in any meaningful way to interdict.

5) The Taliban can, and do, kill anyone who cooperates in any remote way with the occupation, and neither the occupation nor its regime can do anything about this whatsoever.

6) The operational objective of this particular unit was, in effect, to ‘inconvenience the manueverability’ of the Taliban units.

7) The operational objective of their regional command (in Kandahar) was ‘to control the big cities so that they (the Taliban) would have to come to terms with us.’

And keep in mind, this is all taking place at the height of The Surge II in the region with maximum deployment of assets declared as the primary objective of the present occupation campaigning season.

There is a word for this configuration of conditions: defeat. This is why Stan McChrystal is re-polishing his shiny balls: he and his are completely immobilized, have lost any operational initiative that they may have had, can’t do a damn thing about it, and are now trying to keep the large population centers hostage to some kind of settlement. This looks highly like the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, minus the saturation bombing but with far more boots on the ground. This looks amazingly like the Indochina dumb-a-thon; even the kind of rhetoric used by the guys in the article I mention would be entirely in place, trying to paint a picture of failure as one where the occupation is ‘in control and on plan’ by milspeak fuzziness and omission, much of it the unintentional result of what is left when candor is excluded.

We’ve lost in Afghanistan. The only one winning there are the grossly parasitic private contractors sucking down the governments billions at cost-plus for another season of the Long Score of which they are the sole beneficiaries.

Yves here. But oh, we’ve just discovered a monster mineral trove! This vastly ups the stakes. It now isn’t hard to see that we will continue to pour resources and young men’s lives into Afghanistan to make sure we control these riches, just as we continue to throw money and personnel into Iraq to hold the prize of the second largest oil reserves in the world.

We do happen to have the bad luck to have the commodities located in the most contested areas. From the Times:

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

And the Afghans have never been into mining.

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program.

Yves here. Do you think a culture that has depended on farming and herding is going to be keen to have the countryside turned into a strip mine? Even if some Afghans warm to the idea, others are sure to oppose it vigorously.

Moreover, as happens in war, we’ve killed a lot of civilians. And we haven’t been too clever about choosing friends either. This combination is fatal. I’ve been told by Afghanis (readers are welcome to correct me if I am wrong) that this is a part of the world where the responsibility for avenging a murder carries across generations. One said that it would be impossible to subdue its 29 million population short of exterminating them: “We will hunt you down across the world.”

While these commentators may be overstating their blood lust and tenacity, a much simpler point appears to be true: we’ve made a complete mess in a region that now has even more strategic value than we had thought. And our Plan B, of buying the locals off, does not look likely to appeal to them

Imperialism, ugly business, isn’t it?

Update 2:00 AM: Some alert readers have pointed out that news of the big mineral find was reported in China in February (hat tip JoJo) and copper mining has been underway since 2007. Given the flurry of not so hot press a couple of days ago on the progress of the war in Afghanistan, is the New York Times being used as a mouthpiece to push a justification as to why we are there (and a superfically plausible rationale as to why we might be able to get the population on our side)?

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103 comments

  1. Gary Anderson

    Of course it is imperialism. The Taliban went to Texas as allies in 1997 in December. The Taliban then rejected the planned construction of a pipeline to Halliburton investments in the Caspian Sea. You can google it with the date and learn about the Telegraph reporting on the visit.

    The rejection of the pipeline gave US oil people motive to facilitate 911. That is right folks.

    BTW, your hero, Warren Buffet was into 911 up to his grandfatherly, but diabolical eyeballs. He was having a party at strategic command on 911. One of the CEO’s present was spared the destruction of her entire company on 911. Her director ended up as the head of the 911 investigation. It is all on the Killtown website.

    Oh, I forgot, Buffet’s Netjet was following flight 93. The company mentioned it once and went silent after that.

    What are the odds of all these things happening without massive US involvement in 911?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have NEVER said Buffet was a “hero” or anything remotely like that. I suggest you take more care about the accuracy of your remarks.

          1. James

            And both of you (Yves and Gary) may want to get his name spelled correctly. It’s BUFFETT .

    2. Burt

      We will never leave for sure.

      Read this declasified CIA doc from Clinton era (when they decide to pick a fight with Taliban. Unocal, etc)

      The plan was to take over afghanistan and run a pipeline down south to get the gas and oil. They obviously has been thinking about this for a long time (even the cia get tired of making report. “still a non starter”)

      http://www.faqs.org/cia/docs/0/0001107705/NEW-TRANS-AFGHANISTAN-GAS-PIPELINE-PROPOSAL:-STILL-A-NONSTARTER.html

      ————–

      Serbia, Kosovo, Georgia was another oil pipeline case (huge caspian sea gas) That was Clinton trying to steal caspian oil. But to be honest this has been going on since the day of Nazi. Hitler needed ukrainian/caspian oil too.

      The BTC partner was: BP, SOCAR, Chevron, Statoil, TPAO, Eni, Total S.A., Itochu, Inpex, ConocoPhillips, Hess Corporation)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baku%E2%80%93Tbilisi%E2%80%93Ceyhan_pipeline

      Watch out the clinton, always something shaddy. scamming something. (Kazak Uranium, etc)

      http://www.businessinsider.com/major-bill-clinton-ally-and-donor-in-kazakhstan-uranium-scandal-2009-5

      We definitely going to be in major war in afghanistan in the next decade (taliban, russian, Iranian, chinese, everybody there) nasty.

      1. Timmy

        One retired senior U.S official is calling the government’s mineral announcement “pretty silly,” Politico is reporting. “When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970s the [U.S. government], the Russians, the World Bank, the U.N. and others were all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposits. Cheap ways of moving the ore to ocean ports has always been the limiting factor.”

        At least two American geologists have been advising the Pentagon on Afghanistan’s wealth of mineral resources for years. Bonita Chamberlin, a geologist who spent 25 years working in Afghanistan, “identified 91 minerals, metals and gems at 1,407 potential mining sites,” the Los Angeles Times reported in 2001. She even wrote a book, “Gemstones in Afghanistan,” on the topic. And Chamberlin worked directly with the Pentagon, after they commissioned her to report on sandstone and limestone caves mere weeks after 9/11.

        “I am quite surprised that the military is announcing this as some ‘new’ and ’surprising” discovery,’ she told Danger Room in an e-mail. “This is NOT new. Perhaps this also hints at the real reason why we would be so intent on this war.”

        http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/06/no-the-military-didnt-just-discover-an-afghan-mineral-motherlode/#more-26006

        So, the new york times news is truly a propaganda job. Must be related to Gates new effort to warm up Afghan occupation/NATO program.

      2. kievite

        There is even deeper connection. After WWII CIA and W. German recruited Muslim leaders and supported fundamentalist Muslims to fight the USSR. Looking back, one instantly realize that these various programs implicitly contributed to 911 and Afghan War

    3. Vinny

      “Warren Buffet was into 911 up to his grandfatherly, but diabolical eyeballs.”

      Indeed, there is something nasty in that dude’s eyes. Guilt, maybe? Naaahhh. Sociopaths have no conscience, thus have no guilt.

      Then there’s his constant restlessness and agitation. Like a kid with ADHD, or a bipolar adult who refuses to take his lithium.

      Pathetic.

      Vinny

  2. Marsha Keeffer

    Huis clos. We’ll probably get Halliburton or mining companies involved. Resources are more highly valued than the lives of our military people. And since buying them off doesn’t work, you can imagine what Plan C is.

        1. Don in GA

          Wow, Seeking Alpha. Based on what I’ve seen of them they’ll give a forum to anybody who can fog a mirror.

          I’ve been in 40+ U.S. states and a number of developed countries around the world and Fresno is about as much of a backward redneck armpit as I’ve seen. Seriously, a guy in Fresno is trying to deal out geographical insults?

          So in that black helicopter world you live in the U.S. government, aided by guys like Warren Buffett, had advanced knowledge of and/or aided and abetted the 9/11 terrorist attacks? How many knew and how have they managed to keep the conspiracy covered up all these years?

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Any lexicologist here?

    What is the word for ‘fear of fear?’ How do you describe someone who is afraid of fearing? Phobophobia?

    Also, what is another word for ‘binge writing?’ How about ‘binge reading?’

    1. Toby

      Are you suggesting we have nothing to fear but phobophobia itself?

      Whatever you do, try to stay away from speech writing. ;-)

    2. Vinny

      It may interest you to know that that is common with people experiencing panic attacks. The very fear of another panic attack often brings one on. And panic attacks are basically extremely intense feelings of fear. So it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Vinny

  4. purple

    The US has been similarly hoping to develop the resources on Mindanao island in the Philippines for over a decade. We have a ‘war on terror, with advisers’ there too.. Although our involvement is also a partly about poking China in the eye.

    A little problem is that there are multiple long-running guerrilla movements, and the US is not able to re-establish bases due to constitutional decree. So there has been little development.

    There’s no reason to believe Afghanistan will be open for business any time soon, with a much more difficult terrain, political/military situation, and a population that hates ‘us’ exponentially more.

  5. IF

    Are you taking the announcement of the find at face value? Maybe it is there. And even rocks have some retail value (check the prices at your local Home Depot). Lets say 1 trillion extracted over 30 years. Probably needs heavy investment. Say a generous fifty percent profit margin? 15 billion a year for 27 million people. 500 bucks per person and year or 2 dollars a working day. Seems ok, but how does it compare with poppy plantations?

  6. scharfy

    First things first.

    When a 1 Trillion dollar mineral find is discovered, 2.5 Trillion must be allocated to harvest the yield. (Negative 150% ROI is industry standard)

    Of course private investment will be difficult to obtain for such risky endeavors, given that 29 million AK-47 toting locals trained for 1000 years plus in guerilla warfare, are in the desert ready to shoot anything that moves near the target minerals.

    Not to worry, taxpayer funding can be secured at fairly reasonable rates that makes the whole thing doable.

    Top it off by sending some of our youngest, most productive citizens over there to drive around in Oil-sucking HumVees to get blown to bits, and you have yourself a hell of an operation.

    I think we should just declare Victory, and bring our boys home.

    To paraphrase Kennedy – those caves aren’t worth the bones of one US soldier.

    (Heartfelt thanks to all those who serve!)

  7. ardano

    you’re looking at this the wrong way. Consider what happens if $1 Trillion in minerals goes to the Taliban. There is no way we’re leaving now. And for those who are concerned about corruption and the fact that the locals want us to leave, consider what the news flow was in Iraq just a few years ago.

    The rest of the world has allowed the US to shed blood and treasure thinking there was little strategic value…not any more.

      1. NoHomeHere

        Well ,Well,Well! A little birdie told me hat Mr. Big In China Was muscling in over there in Afghanistan for their share of the oil and if they can make friends with the Taliban and close a cozy-deal for all the rare and secondary minerals such as gold ,Well , we’ll be in trouble , real trouble ! They will end up owning all the rare earths on the planet, of which we as a country make cruise missiles and all that reversed engineered alien tech-no shit out of ! for get the Gold and uranium and the iron age ore and the other left over stuff , If China gets their dragon claws on that stuff were done as an empire, the will have the monopoly board all bought up! Shoot! They already own most largest reserves in the world ,Yes we have a few mines of the stuff all the refineries that we built were for them and in China no less, with our money , which would take 10 years to complete , but didn’t build any for our own mines Who’s dumb ass Idea was that ? Now we have to buy our high-tech finished product from them! We sold them our production secrets as collateral some time back Remember those missing lap tops! They claimed it were spies like us! Huh! Your so Gullible Mcfly!
        Anyway , I think none of this stuff will ultimately be ours anyway , I think were just servicing our debt to the new world order and all will eventually fall in production for the world rulers needs to be distributed out as they see fit, after we are Broke and are in civil war and unable to establish public consensus over how to pay our new world leaders our debts! We will either fight for minerals and Do as they designate or go to jail or debtors prison! or some other Orwellian ordeal!

  8. aw70

    Speaking as someone who is both from a non-involved country, and also somewhat versed in both active military affairs and military history…

    You have NOT lost Afghanistan. Actually, this will not happen unless you want it to (as strange as that may sound at first).

    Sure, things could be looking rosier at the moment. But the situation is actually far from hopeless. What non-military persons (such as many journalists) often fail to realise is that there is a world of difference between Vietnam, Afghanistan under the Soviets, and Afghanistan now.

    Sure, units like the 12th infantry are currently operating in a restricted environment. Sure, they are taking casualties in a distressingly regular fashion. Sure, the whole reason why they are in Afghanistan in the first place is not all that honest and transparent in the first place (see also: the whole narcotics business, your tendency to use totally corrupt losers like Karzai as your sock-puppets, and the mining issue you bring up in the article).

    But speaking from a purely military viewpoint, the party whose situation is not tenable in the long run are the Taliban, and not the U.S. military. And this is because of the even more regular blood toll that the U.S. forces are extracting from them. The (forgive me the technical term) kill ratio is currently what, 50:1 or more? You need a huge influx of muslim hotheads form all over the world to sustain that sort of scenario in the long run. Also, they might have the support of some of the locals, but they have zero technological base above the level of Kalashnikov repair shop, and explosives store in a shed, in-country. And technology makes the difference here – U.S. forces can have drones all over the place 24/7, with 20/20 night vision, in a barren country that offers no tree canopy to hide under. Ar capable of calling in airstrikes anytime, anywhere. Your forces can be networked, all the time, while being capable of denying this sort of capability to the Taliban via jamming of communication channels if they so chose.

    There is simply no comparison to the situation of the Soviets, both from a technological viewpoint, and also from a military/organisational one. The Soviet forces were, at the end of the day, a lousy army. If you showed initiative at a commander level, and attempted to go beyond the basic call of duty, you were rarely rewarded – the entire Soviet system was built around people keeping their mouths shut, and going on with whatever they were doing. A recipe for disaster if there ever was one, especially in a situation like this. Compare that to the U.S. forces, which have, time and again, found creative uses for modern technology right on deployment. And who are not perfect at networking the services together, but quite good. And who are getting better at it as time goes on.

    Also, as you mention in the article, the Taliban are currently operating with massive outside support. With Iran and Pakistan being the likely suspects, and the Saudis probably on the sidelines. Now chances are (unfortunately, due to the stir this will create) not too small that Iran might cease to be a source of support in the near future. In that case: score one for the coalition forces, even if it is only in an indirect fashion.

    Your biggest problem as a war-waging country is that, due to the lies and the deceit used in starting this war, and due to its slow progress, you seem to have lost all idea of where this should, or even could, be going.

    So consider this: suppose you pack up and leave.

    The result? Afghanistan sinks into a state against which the darkest parts of the middle ages seem like pure enlightenment. And likely stays there for a long, long time, as a cancer for an entire region of the world. Somalia on steroids, if you will.

    Sure, the locals are currently fed up with the occupation, but leaving is simply not an option. Not if you don’t want to re-create The Killing Fields all over again, and this time in a much more permanent fashion. Look at Iran – that place is basically run by lunatics, and everyone who thought the wouldn’t last a decade when left to their own devices… well, where are these geniuses now? Islamofascism has this nasty tendency of creating much more durable states than, say, communism in SE Asia. Stone-age level states, but pretty resilient ones at that.

    The conclusion? Well, you let an idiot president start this war, but now it’s your duty to all civilisation to stay until it’s done. Properly. Next time, you should perhaps choose your presidents more carefully, and not let them start random wars in parts of the world you don’t remotely understand. But now that you are there… you have to stay until it’s over, and the modern world has won. You’d screw it up for the rest of the planet in a big way if you didn’t. Sorry for that.

    P.S. And to U.S. journalists of all colours: please don’t repeat the whole Vietnam thing, where the media didn’t lose the war, but played a big part in the debacle. Report competently on this, and don’t jump to seemingly easy conclusions either way. And ask military experts before declaring a war “lost” – these are dangerous words, when spoken in the media.

      1. kievite

        There is an interesting book “A Mosque in Munich: Nazis, the CIA, and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West ” that covers that topic.

      1. attempter

        I also like the way he at least pretends to be a flat-earther on the theory of attrition.

        The dominoes at least might have sounded plausible the first time around, before evidence disproved it. “Attrition” was always idiotic on its face.

    1. DownSouth

      ”The (forgive me the technical term) kill ratio is currently what, 50:1 or more? You need a huge influx of muslim hotheads form all over the world to sustain that sort of scenario in the long run.”

      The quicksand of lying statements of all sorts, deceptions as well as self-deceptions, is apt to engulf any reader who wishes to probe this material [The Pentagon Papers], which, unhappily, he must recognize as the infrastructure of nearly a decade of United States foreign and domestic policy.

      Because of the extravagant lengths to which the commitment to nontruthfulness in politics went on at the highest level of government, and because of the concomitant extent to which lying was permitted to proliferate throughout the ranks of all governmental services, military and civilian—-the phony body counts of the “search-and-destroy” missions, the doctored after-damage reports of the air force, the “progress” reports to Washington from the field written by subordinates who knew that their performance would be evaluated by their own reports—-one is easily tempted to forget the background of past history…

      Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings.
      –Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic

      Look at Iran – that place is basically run by lunatics… Islamofascism has this nasty tendency of creating much more durable states than, say, communism in SE Asia. Stone-age level states, but pretty resilient ones at that.

      [T]he mobilization of fear, hatred, disgust, and resurgent self-pride and arrogance—-much of it having to do with Islam and the Arabs on one side, “we” Westerners on the other—-are very large-scale enterprises.

      [….]

      The major influences on George W. Bush’s Pentagon and National Security Council were men such as Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, experts on the Arab and Islamic world who helped the American hawks think about such preposterous phenomena as the Arab mind and centuries-old Islamic decline that only American power could reverse. Today, bookstores in the United States are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat, and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted to them and others by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange Oriental peoples over there who have been such a terrible thorn in “our” flesh. Accompanying such warmongering expertise have been the omnipresent CNNs and Fox News Channels of this world, plus myriad numbers of evangelical and right-wing radio hosts, plus innumerable tabloids and even middlebrow journals, all of them recycling the same unverifiable fictions and vast generalizations so as to stir up “America” against the foreign devil.

      Even with all its terrible failings and its appalling dictator (who was partly created by U.S. policy two decades ago), were Iraq to have been the world’s largest exporter of bananas or oranges, surely there would have been no war, no hysteria over mysteriously vanished weapons of mass destruction, no transporting of an enormous army, navy, and air force 7000 miles away to destroy a country scarcely known even to the educated American, all in the name of “freedom.” Without a well-organized sense that these people over there were not like “us” and didn’t appreciate “our” values—-the very core of traditional Orientalist dogma as I describe its creation and circulation in this book—-there would have been no war.

      So from the very same directorate of paid professional scholars enlisted by the Dutch conquers of Malaysia and Indonesia, the British armies of India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, West Africa, the French armies of Indonesia and North Africa, came the American advisers to the Pentagon and the White House, using the same clichés, the same demeaning stereotypes, the same justification for power and violence (after all, runs the chorus power is the only language they understand) in this case as in the earlier ones.
      –Edward Said, Orientalism

      P.S. And to U.S. journalists of all colours: please don’t repeat the whole Vietnam thing, where the media didn’t lose the war, but played a big part in the debacle.

      That’s right, the media’s exposing of the lies and propaganda—-or as Arendt put it the “Alice-in-Wonderland atmosphere” where “no reality and no commons sense could penetrate the minds” of the hawks—-is what caused us to lose the Vietnam War.

      1. anonymous

        Thank you very much. Until now, I wasn’t sure how little original thought you had in you. I get the sense you actually believe this nonsense and consider yourself unusually clever for doing so.

        I especially appreciqte the bold type for the really important parts.

        Thanks for the laugh.

        1. DownSouth

          anonymous,

          If you want to comment on a blog where you won’t have your ignorance and misguided beliefs challenged, I’m sure there are plenty of blogs out there that are populated exclusively with right-wing neocon dittoheads. Perhaps you should search one out, because that way you won’t have your comments challenged, your highly fragile ego won’t get brusised, and the rest of us will be spared these histrionics.

          1. anonymous

            You’ve got it backwards. No surprise. I enjoy having my ideas, such as they are, challenged. There are plenty of people here I can learn from, Yves is right at the top of the list. I won’t be bookmarking any of your copy and paste posts. Others might.

            Have a good one!

          2. DownSouth

            anonymous,

            I thoroughly documented where all your hackneyed talking points came from.

            Then you accuse me of “bookmarking” and “copy and paste posts.”

            Oh well, I suppose the Renaissance just passed you by:

            As for the Humanist method, it is the one still in universal use. Its conventions are commonplace everywhere: in government, in business, the weekly magazines, and even in schoolwork—-who has escaped “research”? who dares ignore exact quotation and date, consulting previous work, citing sources, listing bibliography, and sporting that badge of candor, the footnote?
            –Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence

            Or maybe Barzun got it right, that you are a manifestation of our “demotic life and times” where decadence reigns supreme.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Wow, war as hard-core porn. I lust for the smell of Napalm and burned flesh in the morning! No need for Agent Orange defoliants; we can see the Gooks (er, ragheads) out in the open. Surely two trillion dollars and tens (hundreds?) of thousands of lives is a small price to pay for a trillion-dollar treasure trove to be mined by the Chinese(as long as someone else is paying for it).

      Surely this time it’s different. The only similarities to Vietnam is that it has now lasted as long, there is no end in sight, it is escalating not winding down, we are killing more innocents than combatants, we are bombing neighboring countries, propping up a hated, corrupt government, etc., etc.

      Oh but the main difference is that Afghanistan is known as “the graveyard of empires”. But this time it’s different. They’ll wecome us with hasish and poppies.

      The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: 1979-1989
      The British Empire: 1837-1919
      The Mughal Empire: 1525-1709
      The Timurid Empire: 1370-1506
      The Il-Khanate: 1245-1332
      The Mongol Empire: 1221-1245
      The Khwarezmid Empire: 1215-1221
      The Delhi Sultanate: 1206-1221
      The Ghurid Empire: 1186-1202
      The Ghaznavid Empire: 970-1186
      The Abbasid Caliphate: 750-970
      The Umayyad Empire of Arabia: 637-750
      The Tang Dynasty of China: 620-637
      The Hepthalite Kingdom: ca. 400-580
      The Sassanian Empire: 224-561
      The Kushan Empire: 135-240
      The Kingdom of the Western Satraps: 020-405
      The Indo-Scythian Kingdom: BC140-AD020
      The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom: BC250-BC048
      The Mauryan Empire: BC305-BC232
      The Seleucid Empire: BC323-BC250
      The Empire of Alexander the Great: BC328-BC323
      The Archaemenid Empire: BC550-BC328

      1. James

        There was no such thing as “The Empire Of Alexander the Great”. His armies travelled thousands of miles, won most battles, built a number of new towns, and fornicated endlessly, but there was no unified empire. As for Afghanistan, he swept through and on to the border regions of India, before turning back, and was finally almost destroyed by mother nature (by insisting on taking the most difficult route).

    3. Richard Kline

      So aw70, guy you’ve _got_ to stop smoking that Top Gun stuff your on, because it’s interfering with you ability to interface with facts on the ground. Given what you’ve chosen to say in stating your position, I’m entirely unimpressed with your ability (willingness?) to do situational analysis, here, or your command of the trajectories of other insurgencies of recent generations. I’m the bloke who Yves is citing, here, so I’m going to summarize a series of misconceptions, deceptions, and biases in your remarks.

      aw70″ “But speaking from a purely military viewpoint, the party whose situation is not tenable in the long run are the Taliban, and not the U.S. military. And this is because of the even more regular blood toll that the U.S. forces are extracting from them. The (forgive me the technical term) kill ratio is currently what, 50:1 or more?” I don’t for a second believe that the kill ration in Afghanistan is 50:1, though it might have been three years ago, a point to which I’ll return below. I don’t think the US military believes it’s getting 50:1 either, and they have every incentive to inflate the numbers. But let’s suppose that it is. To begin with, the _casualty ratio_ is not, nor has it ever been that high. Afghan’s are taking it with area munitions and virtually no medical support, so fatalities are high. Blowing a leg of a doggie or Marine works just fine for the other side. The fact that you leverage your argument, aw70, of what is a fundamentally false and certainly misleading number is very telling about what you choose to understand and not about the nature of the war in the ‘Stans. Then there is this to consider: The Taliban can indeed sustain a kill ration of 1:50 INDEFINITELY. The US isn’t fighting a few thousand fanatics with AK’s [your usage], we’re fighting 27 million Pashtuns, give or take a few million. Even if we were fighting just 1 million, that number could sustain a 1:50 kill ratio indefinitely because _the absolute level of casualties is not egregiously high. You fail to mention this, aw70, which tells me your piece is pro-occupation propaganda if not an outright plant. Total US slain this year might be a few hundred, so what does your spurious ‘ratio’nal factor that too for the ghazis? Totally sustainable; indefinitely. The real point is that THIS HAS BECOME AN ATTRITIONAL CONFLICT. You don’t want to speak to that, but that is the reality. From the standpoint of an insurgency deeply embedded in the society of a place, which the Taliban most certainly is, that is a win: the US has no strategy capable of defeating the Taliban, nor of degrading their ability to fight to a lower level than now demonstrated AT BEST.

      aw70: “You need a huge influx of muslim hotheads form all over the world to sustain that sort of scenario in the long run. Also, they might have the support of some of the locals . . . .” What mealy-mouthed nonsense; I’d like to think you’re brighter than that. The Taliban has demonstrated, deep support from a plurality of the Pashtuns of Afghanistan on its worst day. That day is behind us. They likely have majority support now, and have backing in areas where one never would have expected that in a generation such as the North Slope. All most as importantly, the Taliban completely dominate the security of the countryside: no one whom they dislike survives, at this point. No one turns them in and survives. No one takes $29 of wampum and an iPod from the occupiers and survives. Sure, the Taliban would rather make nice and have strong support, but the demonstrated fact, in _multiple current reports_ is that the insurgency dominates the locals totally. The US can do nothing about this. Stan McChrystal thought he had a sepoy army and collaborationist bureaucracy read to roll to handle the countryside once he ‘manhandled’ Those People’ out of the way; he has now been disabused of that notion; nothing of the sort exists, OR WILL EXIST. You should get this, aw70, and I think you do, which is exactly why you’re cherry-picking the ‘factoids’ or your remarks rather than describing the whole picture. Your remarks of ‘[foreign] militant hotheads’ coming into Afghanistan tells me you don’t want to accept that this is a Pashtun war against a widely detested occupation. We’re not fighting the largely mythical al-Qaida, imperialist talking points nothwithstanding: we’re fighting the people who live on the ground, and their immediate cousins who live over the crestline. When you get this, I’ll take your remarks more seriously. I’m not holding my breath, buddy.

      aw70: “[The insurgents] have zero technological base above the level of Kalashnikov repair shop, and explosives store in a shed, in-country. And technology makes the difference here – ” I’d laugh if this wasn’t so fatally obtuse. You’ve got this entirely _backwards_, aw70, which demonstrates that you are only deceiving yourself. First Worlders always think that technology makes them superior people, and for that reason superior soldiers, which is why we keep losing insurgencies. The insurgency DOESN’T NEED a technology base beyond that required to produce their basic weapony. They now know how to plant and operate mines and bombs of all sizes. They are regularly blowing any kind of occupation military vehicle _to shit and gone_, and can do that, basically, forever. Or didn’t you read the articles describing THAT in great detail, buddy? Their marksmanship could be better, which is one of the few things keeping our dudes alive, but that’s changing, a point to which I will also return. They have anti-vehicle RPGs now in plentiful supply brought in from outside the nominal borders which give them all the kick for zap-and-go ambushes that is useful. An effective surface to air shoulder-fired anti-air missile would be a good think for them. They won’t have that in the next five years, and they’ll never have that of their own making, but should they ever get their hands on any number the occupation isn’t just defeated, it’s dead. But I digress. The insurgency doesn’t need further ‘technology’ to control the countryside and do what they do. More would only make nice targets for occupation air.

      aw70: “U.S. forces can have drones all over the place 24/7, with 20/20 night vision, in a barren country that offers no tree canopy to hide under. Ar capable of calling in airstrikes anytime, anywhere. Your forces can be networked, all the time, while being capable of denying this sort of capability to the Taliban via jamming of communication channels if they so chose.” Yeah, let’s talk about that occupation air: This is the reason why we can stay there indefinitely supposing that we felt like soaking up the costs. And air can make a vast difference. Indeed it did—several years ago, not now. Back then, there was a time a great bunch of farmers and others from the Pakistan side of the crestline went en masse to the Afghan side ‘to wage jihad’ in one campaign season, having forgotten the experiences of the Soviet occupation struggle. They got wasted; not just 50:1 but more like 500:1, launching mass attacks on exposed outposts and having area munitions dumped on them. Well the Taliban aren’t making those kind of mistakes now, a point which you, awww, neglect, and you know why? We taught them how to fight us. This is a point which I left out of the summary which Yves cited, but I’ll raise now. Those same joes in the 12th Infantry (did you actually even _read_ the article, aw70? it’s very enlightening, and not in a good way) said, in effect, they’ve studied us for three years and now can reliably game our tactics, _specifically citing an instance of the insurgency using decoy attacks to draw air response so that they could launch their real attack elsewhere_. The Marjah dust-up was very illustrative of how the Taliban now know better than to hold ground so that air can come and dump munitions on them but instead lure occupation ground into thoroughly minded kill zones. And the insurgency is only going to get better at this. ‘No tree canopy;’ you really don’t ‘get’ the terrain there, do you? something which again leaves me unimpressed with your command of the situation. Yes, there are many areas of open country when movement is totally exposed to air. Funny thing, the Taliban has learned not to go there, and anyway those are strategically minimally important areas on the whole because, well, the Afghans don’t live there. Controlling the areas the Aghans live and farm is what it’s all about. Helmand, Kandahar: plenty of areas with scrub forest and low growth completely concealing movement; just ask the Marines in one and the 1st of the 12th in the other. Much of Afghanistan is exceedingly broken rocky terrain with scrub growth on it. You can’t pick out a camoflauged human size object until it starts shooting at you, which is looooong after it’s now tripped the bomb under your ‘iron coffin.’ All that occupation air can fly anywhere and control nowhere unless targets elect to present themselves, which said targets have now [re]learned how not to do reasonably well. We’ll use our technology,our ‘night vision,’ point-and-click with our ’24/7 drones.’ That should be a joke but you believe it. Again, did you read _any of the recent articles on present combat in the Stan? Taliban reinforcements of size move at will in the most heavily patrolled and overflown region of the country, and along every conceivable corridor of replacement and re-supply. All that US air picks off a few, but doesn’t change the picture AT ALL. The Taliban control the night in virtually all of the countryside: the joes in the dust admit this, only propaganda shills such as yourself don’t get it. Yes, Special Forces go where they want, and get some payback—but completely counterproductively because they kill plenty of bystanders in the process, growing enough new enemies to more than replace the ones they snatch. The occupation does not remotely have enough drones, air, and specials to control the countryside, and never will. Technology only lowers the intensity of Taliban concentration but does nothing to erode its durability.

      The war is lost, I said. Now, ‘lost’ is a relative term, but you chose to treat it as an absolute. The Taliban cannot, yet, eject the occupation; it may be that they never can on their own, as they are now. The occupation cannot defeat the Taliban, and the cost for staying in the Great Game only gets higher as the insurgency gets better and broader. I mentioned several analogous conflicts for the present state of conditions describing the war in the Stans. I left out the best one, though: South Lebanon. Israel had all the air one could ever want, vast ‘technological superiority,’ held every town, had a better force ratio _by far_ than the occupation has or will ever have in the Stans, and operated in terrain generally more favorable to an occupier than that of Afghanistan, and snatch-and-grabbed ‘leaders’ profusely—and left with their tails between their legs. The tactics used by the insurgency in South Lebanon are those exactly being used in Afghanistan, and that is 100% no coincidence, and not simply because they worked there. The Israelis couldn’t win in Lebanon anymore than we can win in Afghanistan, and got tired of the expense of non-losing, not least because the insurgency there were gradually getting better weapons, raising the costs, and had generally outfought the occupiers huddled in their iron coffins. Another analogy I didn’t make because it is less good but still relevant is Algeria. The Algerian insurgency was never as remotely effective as the Taliban. The French ran quite effective operations in the countryside in the latter part of the war, the key component of which were concentration camps. And still, the French never controlled anything but the ground within range of their small ordinance, and went into sovereign default mid-way through that nasty struggle. Because the majority of the population was with the insurgency, not least because they had no other choice, no more than the Pashtuns do in the Stans. But you dismiss the analogy to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan too readily. You think ‘our guys are better because we’re a meritocracty and soooo tech-savvy.’ Strategically,the situation is exactly the same: the Soviets held the cities, but not the countryside,not ever. The present Taliban-led insurgency is far more effective than the mujahideen ever were, and operationally active in more of the countryside, this despite the fact that the US has significantly more ground in place than the Soviets ever did.

      Want to win a counterinsurgency? We heard a few years ago how, ‘no one ever beats an insurgency,’ but that’s crap. Russia has won in Chechnya. India won in ‘Khalistan.’ Presently, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq is in abeyance, and it’s looking like a tactical defeat for them, long-term outcome unclear. How do you win? Buy off a large chunk of the inhabitants to fight it for you. This is the sine qua non. Even in Iraq: the Jordanian intelligence flipped the Sunni tribals to go neutral and inform, and the fragmented remainder were already driven out of Baghdad by the Shiia, and took further losses when betrayed by the tribals. Of course, the tribals hoped the US would back them, but now we’ve effectively deserted them, just imperialists always do when they get tired of having a leg blown off (see tiralleurs, Algeria; running dogs, Nam, etc., etc., too etc.). Do you posit any such faction bought in by the occupation in Afghanistan. Everyone who studies this thing is of the opinion that none exists, aw70. You, however, think we’ll win, as opposed to non-lose until we slink away, because ‘we’re just better than they are.’

      And that is the crux of your argument as far as I can tell, aw70. Here, why don’t you speak for yourself: ” . . . [S]uppose you pack up and leave. The result? Afghanistan sinks into a state against which the darkest parts of the middle ages seem like pure enlightenment. And likely stays there for a long, long time, as a cancer for an entire region of the world. Somalia on steroids, if you will.

      “Sure, the locals are currently fed up with the occupation, but leaving is simply not an option. Not if you don’t want to re-create The Killing Fields all over again, and this time in a much more permanent fashion. Look at Iran – that place is basically run by lunatics, and everyone who thought the wouldn’t last a decade when left to their own devices… well, where are these geniuses now? Islamofascism has this nasty tendency of creating much more durable states than, say, communism in SE Asia. Stone-age level states, but pretty resilient ones at that.”

      The conclusion? Well, you let an idiot president start this war, but now it’s your duty to all civilisation to stay until it’s done.” That’s right, you see those who live in Afghanistan as ‘medeival savages,’ ‘unenlightened,’ technological primitives, hotheads, and a few more references I’m not going to paste, whom it is our duty, as ubermensch with all the toys to civilize. The only thing that could defeat us, since such primitives ipso facto must be incapable of doing that ‘without outside help,’ would be defeatism in the press (and blogosphere), which you see it as your mission to rebut. It’s plain to see, aw70, that your racism gets in the way of seeing either history or facts on the ground; instead, you see all the factoids which make the position you endorse one of superior people who will do ‘what’s right [for them]‘ because the little people of the world are incapable of deciding their own lives, and certainly incapable of defeating ‘us.’ To me, you’re on the side of the losers in these kind of things, and I think that about sums up your perspective.

      1. Skippy

        Fortress-isam historically served a purpose, to provide avenues for the transport of wealth out of hostile areas…ummmm?

  9. paper mac

    With regard to the NYT article-

    Since, as Kline notes, ISAF has largely lost control of the country outside a few major urban areas, and even there is having difficulty, it seems unlikely that large scale exploitation of these resources will be possible by Western corporations without the consent of the locals.

    I don’t mean to ascribe this intent to Kline as he was writing about another piece, but his comments as presented here seem to suggest that the “Taliban” are in control of the relevant parts of the country (which are mostly, as the NYT map shows, in the central mountains and northern parts of the country, rather than in the Pashtun areas in the south). Although I think Kline is right that the war has been lost, I’m not sure that invoking the “Taliban” (as the media refers to the diverse collection of socio-political groups in the Pashtun south) has a lot of value w/ respect to the minerals story. There are a lot of ex-northern alliance types, warlords, west-friendly Hazara, and general criminals like Karzai that can be bought off in many of the relevant areas.

    I think it would be possible for a Congo-style situation to develop where foreign multinationals sponsor local strongmen to protect their mining operations from militants and rivals, and in so doing fuel regional power struggles. A side effect of the massive amounts of USD cash being poured into the country is that the going rates on bribery in Af have gone through the roof. This could become a very expensive venture, in other words. My general feeling is that these materials are currently too costly to extract once you price in baksheesh and protection money, blackwater mercenaries, getting heavy equipment into a country with no rail system, etc. Of course, I have no idea if that will continue to be the case in the future.

    1. attempter

      It’s not too costly so long as they can do it on the taxpayer dime. Then it’s 100% profit. That’s what corporatism’s all about.

      My first thought reading the piece was that it sounds awfully convenient that they announce this awesome minerals hoard just as even the MSM is prognosticating failure for the Kandahar operation or dawdle or whatever the official term is now that even the army’s too embarrassed to call it an “offensive” (and while everybody knows the vaunted model operation in Marja already failed).

      It sure sounds like trying to artificially stimulate a new pretext for an obviously lost war.

      Lost, that is, if you’re anyone but a jihadist on either side – Islamist or corporatist. Both kinds of terrorist benefit immensely.

  10. Crocodile Chuck

    There is no infrastructure in Afghanistan. The entire military supply chain is flown in: equipment, materiel, food, fuel. Its like staging a war on the moon: there’s a reason why it costs US$1M pa to put a $30,000 a year infantryman on the ground there.

  11. Glen

    Ah, ha!

    we’ll just have to keep digging the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden out of those caves and shipping the ore, I mean “cave dirt” home for processing.

    Honestly, you’d have to find trillions in golden goose eggs to make it worth while for the US military to stay in Afghanistan. Better to send the military home and hopefully the Afghans will figure out the who and how to extract any mineral deposits.

  12. paper mac

    “The (forgive me the technical term) kill ratio is currently what, 50:1 or more? You need a huge influx of muslim hotheads form all over the world to sustain that sort of scenario in the long run.”

    This is laughable if you consider the fact that the US military routinely kills civilians and records them as insurgents. Have you looked at what The Troops have been up to lately?

    http://www.afghanconflictmonitor.org/2010/03/un-criticises-covert-troops-who-committed-killings.html

    “Covert troops who killed two pregnant women and a teenage girl in eastern Afghanistan went on to inflict ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’ on the survivors of a botched night raid, a report by the UN said.”

    Does that sound like killing an enemy with finite numbers to you? Or does it sound more like manufacturing some new “muslim hotheads”?

    Wake up, armchair general.

  13. Sundog

    If there’s anywhere on earth the “resource curse” will apply, it’s Afghanistan.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resource_curse

    The Chinese have already made at least one investment in mineral extraction there; I suspect the US will exit by arranging for the Chinese (if we’re lucky, in cooperation with Pakistan) to take over.
    “China Willing to Spend Big on Afghan Commerce”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/world/asia/30mine.html?_r=3&ref=world

    The Chinese are not fond of Islamic militants, so if they can buy the Pak elite away from dallying with fundamentalist nutcases it wouldn’t be a total loss for the US or the rest of the world.

    Similarly, Iraqi oil & gas will mostly end up flowing to China.
    “China reaps benefits of Iraq war with oil deals”
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hxdaNMtR53EWA7JBWoS4ZGzMUbowD9G76E200

    BTW (pet peeve) “Afghani” is the currency, “Afghans” are the people.

  14. Jojo

    Funny that this story is just getting play because it is running in the NY Times.

    It looks like this same story was run back in Feb. in China Mining:

    =============
    Afghan ‘geological reserves worth a trillion dollars’
    (AFP)
    Updated: 2010-02-01 09:55

    Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest countries, is sitting on mineral and petroleum reserves worth an estimated one trillion dollars, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.

    The war-ravaged nation could become one of the richest in the world if helped to tap its geological deposits, Karzai told reporters.

    http://www.chinamining.org/News/2010-02-01/1264990862d33907.html
    ==============

    —AND—

    China has been building out at least one copper mine since back in 2007 there:

    ==============
    China wins major Afghan project
    By Ian MacWilliam
    BBC News
    Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 November 2007, 15:52 GMT

    A Chinese mining company has won a tender to develop one of the world’s largest copper mines in Afghanistan.

    The state-owned China Metallurgical Group says it will invest nearly $3bn in the mine at Aynak in the province of Logar, south of Kabul.

    Officials say it will be the largest foreign investment in Afghan history and will employ 10,000 people.

    When construction is complete the company will pay the Afghan government $400m a year.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7104103.stm
    ===================

    So yet again, the USA plays second fiddle to China. WHY?

    1. albrt

      You’re right. We are totally screwed. But you don’t have to go any further away than Wall Street to see the president getting rolled.

      Of course, his real loyalty is to the ivy league mafia, which doesn’t get its hands dirty with mining and the like. Mining is just an excuse for the oligarchs to sell securities.

  15. ronald

    Lemme guess.

    The found unobtainium.

    Seriously, if a so-called liberal president can get rolled by BS like this (we’ll see), we are totally screwed.

  16. anonymous

    How timely. Just this minute finished Peter Hitchens’ piece on anti-British sentiments and the anticipated withdrawal of UK troops from Afghanistan.

    The best part of both pieces, here and at the Daily Mail, is our more or less complete indifference to the exigencies of challenge both for us and for the unfortunates we’re liberating.

    Unfortunately, the best argument in favor a good, old-fashioned imperialist project is that it strips away so many of the fictions we use to deceive ourselves and others. I don’t for one second think that Afghans in their various ethnic groups should be forced to embrace anyone’s idea of civilization. Unfortunately, that’s a minority view, as the unlucky inhabitants of Tibet are discovering and rediscovering again and again.

    China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, and Russia share our conviction that pretty much everything in Afghanistan would go more smoothly if folks just did things ‘our’ way. Then, there’s them utterly benign religious types who have convinced themselves that enforcing illiteracy, rape, beatings, and even murder within marriage is the quickest route to divine salvation for all concerned.

    What to do? I’d simply seize a Delaware or Maine-size chunk of Afghanistan and declare it a military protectorate and safe-haven for families interested in living in the twenty-first, rather than the twelfth-century. The whys and wherefores are simple, the logistics are not.

    Nobody is going to form real alliances with partners who have one foot out the door. This peaceful co-operation thing is a dangerous fiction that cannot survive the modern international geo-political environment.

    That, or get out.

    1. Mandarin

      I love the smell of lithium in the morning. This is an attempt to pimp an endless, ineffective snafu.

      1. anonymous

        Well, if we’re talking about lithium, how do you think America’s approach to imperialism is perceived by say, all those crazy folks who claim Israel is actually a US military protectorate on the Mediterranean and that Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea serve the same purpose in the Pacific.

        This is heavy business for the folks on the sharp end of the stick and considering that Obama now has US special ops forces operating all over the globe, maybe those who see US imperialism as a neo-con fantasy rather than a fact of geopolitical life ought to get off the pipe for a while. Most industrialized countries practice some form of hegemony like this. The only question is whether it actually works.

        I’m all for limited imperialism, course in Obama speak that means shooting suspected terrorists and flying drones over sovereign states. I lack your ability to paint lipstick on that pig.

        Do it or don’t.

        1. DownSouth

          ”…maybe those who see US imperialism as a neo-con fantasy rather than a fact of geopolitical life ought to get off the pipe for a while.”

          The rulers of empires searched their tool kits of power in vain for the instruments that would bring rebellious colonial populations to heel—-a lesson driven home once and for all by the failures of the United States in Vietnam and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The movement of resistance and reform in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, in the third wave, placed the power of popular resistance on even clearer display. Their victories posed in the sharpest possible form the question that the entire two-century-long movement for self-determination has put before the world: What power has enabled poorly armed or unarmed or entirely nonviolent popular movements to defeat the military forces of the most powerful empires of the past two centuries?

          [….]

          Through people’s war, non-Western peoples found a way to defend themselves against the awesome technical superiority of the superpowers.
          –Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World

    2. DownSouth

      ”…the unfortunates we’re liberating…

      Refer to Edward Said quote in my comment back up the thread.

      1. anonymous

        I’m not sure Said breathed an honest breath in his life. He was a crass apologist for Central Asian slavery and sexism who lived a nice comfortable life as a member of the western imperialist class. He built a comfortable life for himself telling white folks that western imperialism is the root of all evil, while ignoring pretty much, the barbarity we find in local cultures.

        I fear you misunderstand me. I’m in favor of limited imperialism and hegemony and I don’t believe all cultures are equally good.

    3. JTFaraday

      “Then, there’s them utterly benign religious types who have convinced themselves that enforcing illiteracy, rape, beatings, and even murder within marriage is the quickest route to divine salvation for all concerned.”

      Yeah, and thank goodness butchering your way to liberal enlightenment is much less internally contradictory.

      1. JTFaraday

        Oops! Forgot the torture–big in the middle ages, I guess. When do we start burning them at the stake? Might it not be more cost effective?

        Where are the MBAs on this?!

  17. Frank Ohsen

    Sheeeeeit.

    What would we DO with all these Afghani ‘industrial’ minerals and metals anyway?

    I mean doncha have to have a viable manufacturing industry left to begin with?

    I know. That was such an uncalled for low blow.

    1. attempter

      Never fear. Even if these minerals exist, and if they’re ever extracted (two big ifs), it’ll be Chinese corporatism which benefits.

      I doubt anyone in the US other than the weapons and mercenary rackets will.

  18. Andrew not the Saint

    To paraphrase Chris Rock – I just don’t understand how come there are all these OUR minerals dug in under THEIR soil.

  19. Jim S

    Afghanistan has never tasted of imperialism like Iraq did back in the day, but for all the wishful thinking and incompetence on the part of US forces there it hardly matters, does it?

    I would say the fact that Afghan peoples hate the US presence is less important than the fact that they hate Karzai and his kleptocracy. In the long run foreigners are just foreigners, and it’s the comparison of whatever passes for the Afghan government and the Taliban that is the decisive calculation as to which side the tribes back, just as it was with Al Q’aeda versus the government of Iraq. Right now the Taliban is not looking too shabby compared to democracy.

    Continuing to back Karzai after he showed his true colors was probably the fatal mistake. An opportunity for true democracy probably still exists today, but by backing Karzai the US has put a very, very bitter taste in Afghan mouths for it. Really, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, US politicians have thought that “democracy” is a magic wand that heals everything it touches, but if democracy is to work it must conform to local circumstances and play to local needs.

    US military failure or success is irrelevant considering the continuing failure of US foreign policy.

    1. anonymous

      Wrong. Democracy is not and never has been the government of choice for many nations in the world, including virtually all the vaunted champions of democracy, until very recently.

      The post about citing the Chinese plans to operate that copper mine provide some clues. I’m speculating, but here’s what I see: huge cash payouts to local clan leaders who demand a second-kickback from the folks in communities they control who receive ‘permits’ to work in the mines. No unions, no UN, no safety standards, on external supervision of any kind. Any nation that refuses to educate one half of the population isn’t in any desperate rush to build a one woman one vote system.

      You’d think that would be obvious, but instead we’ve got a million little liberal George Bush’s dreaming, like Andrew Sullivan, that within every community outside the US there’s a little American liberal pro-gay marriage and pro-pot just busting to get out.

      The folks with power in these communities like it very much, thanks all the same. Karzai understands just how unreliable US friendship is. Karzai is fully aware that US puppets frequently end up dead or in jail. He’s right to cover his bets.

      1. DownSouth

        Any nation that refuses to educate one half of the population isn’t in any desperate rush to build a one woman one vote system.

        Combative and woefully ignorant policy experts, whose world experience is limited to the Beltway, grind out books on “terrorism” and liberalism, or about Islamic fundamentalism and American foreign policy, or about the end of history, all of it vying for attention and influence quite without regard for truthfulness or reflection or real knowledge.
        –Edward Said, Orientalism

        For anyone interested in a corrective to anonymous’s campaign of ignorance and disinformation, from someone who actually knows a little bit about Afghanistan, I recommend Bill Moyer’s interview of Greg Mortenson:

        http://www.google.com.mx/#hl=es&source=hp&q=bill+moyers+greg+mortgenson&btnG=Buscar+con+Google&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=bill+moyers+greg+mortgenson&gs_rfai=&rlz=1R2ACAW_es&fp=19e23926c4442d42

        1. Doug Terpstra

          I also recommend his book “Three Cups of Tea” about his experiences in Pakistan and the relative value of investing in schools rather than predator drones. The wisdom of it is self-evident.

      2. Jim S

        I disagree. True democracy is not the government of choice in most nations because it places power to decide the future in the hands of the people. Witness Thailand. True democracy also requires that the people involved in the democratic process become fully informed of their choices–which is why I suspect the US is no longer a true democracy. You can’t just decide to hold a vote, elect candidates, and call it a day. Democracy takes a lot of work. It’s a mistake to infer from the failure of democracy-done-on-the-cheap the final failure of democracy.

        You are correct that Karzai is right to cut his losses, but this is not mutually exclusive to the fact that his government is an abject failure, which is the salient point.

        1. anonymous

          That’s a fair comment. I’m not sure what the metric of a successful government might be. The impression I get is that most rural Afghans would like to have a good harvest and to be left alone. Local councils forbid participation by women.

          I’ll stand by original comment that democracy, one person=one vote, isn’t a system Afghans are in any rush to embrace. The vote buying by Karzai where blocks of votes are purchased from a local boss isn’t much different from the sort of vote-buying we see in America. The difference is important, however. Almost everybody can cast a ballot, even if the choice of candidates is determined by bribing candidates to drop out of particular races. We know Sestak was invited to reconsider his candidacy. We don’t know how many say/said yes.

          That’s BP in a nutshell and I bet the Afghans aren’t all that interested in any advice we might want to share.

          Cheers.

  20. Nicholas Shaxson

    A trillion sounds like a lot, but a) these early estimates are highly speculative: it would have made more sense to say something like “$200bn-$5 trillion”, b) depending on the mineral, and the location, and all that, these reserves would likely be exploited over a 20-50 year time horizon (over 50 years, ignoring NPV and all that stuff, we’d be talking $20bn a year; c) there is the cost of extraction to factor in; d) compare it with Angola, say, this is smallish: Angola’s 12bn+ oil reserves at $100/b would be worth over a trillion, shared over less than half the Afghan population – and the country still has the world’s second-worst infant mortality, over half a century after oil was discovered. It ain’t going to automatically make Afghans happy.

    OK, a trillion is still a hefty chunk. There is a standard path that mineral-dependent countries follow. First, the scramble\to get their hands on a share of the cake, in a grand zero-sum game. This often spills over into years of civil war. The exercise of political power becomes an exercise in doling out political patronage, in exchange for support. If the money is enough, this formula will over many years quell the conflict, as one dominant faction becomes ever more dominant, as it uses its mineral riches to outspend the others, first on weapons, then on simple patronage, and finally captures all the main levers of power and becomes impregnable. Also, the country will tend to become more nationalistic, and resentful of foreigners taking their minerals — and now they are rich enough to have the confidence to tell big powers to screw themselves. (ExxonMobil, would you believe it, is actually scared of the Angolan government: Exxon knows that if it pisses them off enough, there are plenty of others who’l take their place.) With this confidence, the Angolans, like so many others since OPEC, are able to jack up the taxes and royalties to surprising levels. So at the end of the day, there is no way the U.S. is ever going to find a way to muscle in on that much of the mineral wealth. Its companies may get a modest or even decent slice of it, but not for years and years hence. The current military situation matters a bit, but doesn’t figure that much when you consider that this is a very long game.

  21. Joseph

    Dear Lady
    thats not what 2 webs say
    Both Christopher Story from UK and Dedefensa.org from Brussels say its heroin dealing, which has surged again since the taliban are not controlling the country ( thats a fact)
    keep well

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Um, I think you mean opium production, which is….farming! Yes, I’m sure they are forward integrated into making opiates, but I wouldn’t call it dealing, that’s a pure middleman function.

      1. Joseph

        Dear Lady
        thats not they both say; the say Cia and other agencies finance themselves through opium, and that it has a deep link with arms selling. By the way, both sites, are far from being leftists
        worldreports.org in english
        dedefensa.org,. in french

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          We are talking past each other. Please read my comment in context. The point was that mining (and the related infrastructure) would disrupt traditional sources of income (and well established lifestyles). Growing opium poppies has a long history in Afghanistan.

          1. Joseph

            Dear Lady
            Down the sixhundred into the valley of death¡¡¡
            by the way
            fancy being invited for a speech in Barcelona, Spain?
            I am registered, so you can reach me
            keep well
            ps, insist that whoever did the crime of publishing that photograph of your, is your worst enemy…..

  22. kstills

    How many of you folks predicted a loss in Iraq? Or that we were only in Iraq to ‘get the oil’?

    Seems prognostication is pretty weak on this site.

    1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

      I didn’t know that we had won since the purpose/goal became an ever-moving target. What was the original pretext for war?

      WMDs? [Only found White Male Dummies who drank the koolaid - not weapons of mass destruction]. Nation-building and democracy? This experiment is likely to result in a loose federation of three regions more akin to the British occupation. The new federalism?

      But access to the second largest known reserves of oil in the world is now on track as STABILITY has returned. Thank God. Let the oil concessions begin. Who could have predicted this outcome? How could anyone be so cynical? It’s almost unAmerican – TREASON?

      But as to the mineral wealth in Afghanistan? It’s old news. There has been a steady stream of “information” on this subject for quite a while. But the problem is the inhabitants stand in the way of PROGRESS – our’s. What lessons, if any, can be drawn from this…

      1) Look to the last days of the Roman Republic for a glimpse into our future. Representative forms of government and “democracy” are inconsistent with the demands of empire. Satiating the “mob” with bread and circuses – consumerism – and fear of the terroristic barbarians from the far off provinces is all that is required. If only we could rename the 82nd Airborne and 101st

      2) As for the Afghans, look no further than the history of Native Americans and/or Appalachia in this country. There’s gold [pick your mineral of choice] in them darn hills… Progress ho! If only we could convince the Afghans to move onto reservations [cities] so that we could better protect them … After all, we’re only talking about 29 million people. Where’s George Custer and Phil Sheridan when you need them? Should 29 million people be allowed stand in the way of PROGRESS? Why would we change now?

      May not be prognostication but there is historical precedent. Which one do you want to bet on?

  23. kstills

    BTW, for a country where the countryside has been ‘lost’, there’s an awful lot of geological research taking place.

  24. Vinny

    “Do you think a culture that has depended on farming and herding is going to be keen to have the countryside turned into a strip mine? Even if some Afghans warm to the idea, others are sure to oppose it vigorously.”

    Great point. Additionally, opium has already been providing the Afghans with a nice cash flow, as well as the revenge on the West some may seek.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Vinny

  25. drip drip drip

    ICCPR I(2) “All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law.” As long as we occupy Afghanistan Russia will tie us in knots with that universally-accepted principle law and watch with glee while we slowly bleed out.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      But, this is just part of the game the nobility plays with its citizen peasants.

      The dumbass peasants loving playing the game tho. In exchange for dead peasants males, they get to create heroic stories of male stupidity.

      Different clowns same circus, for the last 10000 years.

      But, liberals (Progressives, socialists, whatever) don’t forget – this November – vote Democratic: Redeploy Steve!

  26. Dan Duncan

    Well…if we’re going to engage in a bunch of bullshit speculation, how about this:

    These natural resources actually do transform the Afghan economy. The Taliban thugs are marginalized. Women actually gets some rights and schools are opened. George W. Bush is remembered as a courageous hero.

    Now, I know it’s just bullshit speculation, just like I know Yves quoting Richard Kline’s take on things is nothing more than speculative bullshit. “McChrystal has lost all operational initiative and is now trying to keep large population centers hostage to a settlement.” Yeah, OK. Quite an insight there from a Christian Science Monitor article that says no such thing. And I’m not saying Richard, Yves (or whomever) is wrong, either. I’m just saying it’s nothing more than speculative bullshit from people who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

    Here’s some more speculative bullshit for you: If my unlikely version of events came to pass, Yves, and the rest of these posters would NOT be happy.

    Yves’ post is not credible skepticism. It’s nothing more than toxic cynicism.

    1. Mickey Marzick in Akron, Ohio

      It must be the “Baby Boomers” fault again… They’re such cynics!

      Don’t believe in anything but sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, and conjugating sentences to be well prepared for a mind-numbing job on the assembly line where conjugation rhymed with masturbation in frustration with the threat of nuclear annihilation but got waylaid in fornication. Is that alienation… or incantation from inebriation brought on by the hallucination of FICA and OASDI.

      Oh, Danny boy, when Irish eyes are smilin’, time to lighten up a bit. Enjoy your youth while you still can before you become morose and boorish Baby Boomer like me.

    2. DownSouth

      “And I’m not saying Richard, Yves (or whomever) is wrong, either. I’m just saying it’s nothing more than speculative bullshit from people who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.”

      Ah, yes, more from the “Doubt is our product” crowd.

      Another true believer in skeptic drag.

      The evidence of manmade global warming is insufficient or is in doubt.

      There is insufficient evidence to conclude that the border patrol agent who shot an unarmed 14 year-old boy twice, first in the shoulder and then through the head, used excessive force.

      The reports of massive subsea oil plumes are “misleading” and “premature,” after all, “we don’t even know that it’s oil yet.”

      The list grows larger and larger.

    3. charles

      I think a full read of the Wapo article is useful:
      “The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that the civilian-military offensive scheduled to begin in the southern city of Kandahar this spring would take months longer than planned. The Afghan government has not produced the civilian leadership and trained security forces it was to contribute to the effort, U.S. officials said, and the support from Kandaharis that the United States was counting on Karzai to deliver has not materialized.”
      Asked whether the delay leaves time for a decisive outcome by the end of the year, McChrystal was noncommittal. “It will be very clear by the end of the calendar year that the Kandahar operation is progressing,” he said. “I don’t know whether we’ll know whether it’s decisive. Historians will tell us that.”
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/10/AR2010061005543.html
      I just think it is very awkward to have this ‘dubious’ article apper shortly after Bob Herbert’s ‘Let’s have the courage to leave Afghanistan’was published and was the most
      read article on that day
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/opinion/12herbert.html

  27. Paul Tioxon

    In addition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States military is also fighting a war against the Obama administration at the White House, Seymour Hersh said in a little-noted speech at Duke University on October 13. The military is “in a war against the White House — and they feel they have Obama boxed in,” he said.

    Hersh, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq, sees an undercurrent of racism in the Pentagon’s dealings with the White House. “They think he’s weak and the wrong color. Yes, there’s racism in the Pentagon. We may not like to think that, but it’s true and we all know it.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/23/seymour-hersh-military-is_n_332139.html

  28. NOTaREALmerican

    Was just talking with my uber-patriotic frat-boy work-mate. He said this is a good “investment” for America.

    The “logic” goes like this:

    * The American people “invest” in Afghanistan.
    * American companies are able to profit from the situation.
    * The American people get jobs and investment opportunities.

    See how this works? Very simple. Even the dumbass peasants have dreams of empire building. Is this a great country, or what?

  29. K Ackermann

    How do you suddenly discover $1T in minerals that are scattered throughout the country? Wouldn’t that be just about anywhere if you dig deep enough?

    To the idiot who thinks a 50:1 attrition rate equals victory, you carry information the same way a shoe carries dog shit. Do you think the US will have a draft to fight this war? That’s basically what you are saying.

    In places like Fallujah, the US was fought to a virtual standstill and we were spending $1 million for every $1 dollar the “enemy” was spending. Not until we started giving them lots of money to stop shooting us to buy us time to leave was progress made. The progress was that we left.

    1. aw70

      “In places like Fallujah, the US was fought to a virtual standstill and we were spending $1 million for every $1 dollar the “enemy” was spending. Not until we started giving them lots of money to stop shooting us to buy us time to leave was progress made. The progress was that we left.”

      Except that this was not quite what happened. Insurgents attempted to fight the U.S. to a standstill in pitched battle there, yes. And, as you say, actually succeeded. But only for a comparatively short time, and mainly because no-one amongst the local U.S. had previously believed that they would be stupid enough to even try this. Then, they were basically annihilated. If that sort of thing counts as an insurgent victory, I don’t even want to be on the same continent when they lose a battle…

      Much later, the city was ceded to Iraqi control, with mixed results so far – not catastrophically bad, nor all positive. Just mixed. But that happened long after the people (mostly not locals, btw) who previously tried to pull a hard one on U.S. ground forces left. Mostly in body bags.

      If you think that I enjoy writing this sort of thing, or that I enjoy talking about kill ratios… nope, you’re wrong. It just rubs me the wrong way when people get the basic facts wrong on these operations. The military ops are usually quite o.k. in the sense that the U.S. competently wins, no contest.

      The ultra-clusterfuck usually happens later, when someone from CIMIC or some sort of civilian agency (or, god forbid, a politician) steps in, and tries to “make things better” for the locals. Ha!

  30. Doug Terpstra

    Really great work, Yves (and Richard Kline).

    “Yves here. But oh, we’ve just discovered a monster mineral trove! This vastly ups the stakes. It now isn’t hard to see that we will continue to pour resources and young men’s lives into Afghanistan to make sure we control these riches, just as we continue to throw money and personnel into Iraq to hold the prize of the second largest oil reserves in the world.”

    We really have to wonder just when this “treasure” really was discovered. How paradoxical that so people seem to suffer and die for the curse of a wealth of natural resources…diamonds, coltan, gold, or “the devil’s excrement” (H. Chavez), oil.

  31. PJ

    IF this is true:
    1. Europe, India and America are in for a long alliance.
    2. Afghanastan has always been a tribal society (Pashtuns, Tajiks , Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimak, Turkmen, Baluch, Nuristani etc) where internal hatred between groups is bitterer even than hatred of foreigners. In fact many Pashtuns think Hazaras are foreigners.
    3. Some tribes (or warlords) will profit handsomely from economic development in there region just as some African tribes profited from the slave trade
    4. Look for the disgruntled (no profiting) groups to be subjected to genocidal attacks from profiting tribes just as in the tribal “agencies” of Pakistan (Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, and North and South Wazirista) the Punjabis and Sindhis are exterminating the Pashtuns and Chitrali who have become problematic to the Pakistani government. Look for Hamid Karzai’s Pashtun Popalzai tribe to provide the storm troopers/Gestapo for a mineral rich Afghanistan.

  32. Hugh

    Who exactly has been doing all this prospecting in Afghanistan given the high levels of violence and instability there the last few decades?

  33. okl

    some folks are correct in pointing out that this is not a new discovery…

    sigh, why am i not surprised…

  34. Big Joe

    “It now isn’t hard to see that we will continue to pour resources and young men’s lives into Afghanistan to make sure we control these riches, just as we continue to throw money and personnel into Iraq to hold the prize of the second largest oil reserves in the world.”

    Cynical and idiotic. Like we would hang around there for 20 years to get access to minerals when mining becomes possible.

    Junior high school arguments. Grow Up.

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