The U.S. military and government geologists have discovered a potentially game-changing $1 trillion worth of minerals and metals underneath Afghanistan, The New York Times reports. The deposits of copper, iron, cobalt, gold, and gadget-powering lithium are vast enough to transform the impoverished country — the Pentagon says Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium" — as well as the U.S. war effort there. What could this mean for Afghanistan, and the U.S.? (Watch a Fox News report about the mineral jackpot in Afghanistan)
Everyone wins, but the Taliban: Afghanistan is loaded, and that's "very cool news," says Dave Halliday at SynthStuff. The Afghan government gets a rich source of revenue to counter the Taliban's opium racket, and the U.S. gets a second source of lithium, "used in almost every rechargeable battery these days from hybrid vehicles to hand-held power tools," after China. What's not to celebrate?
"Very cool news from Afghanistan"
Afghanistan is in for some pain: I, for one, "have a very bad feeling about this," says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Stupendous wealth, corrupt "oligarchs run wild," and "a trillion new reasons for the Taliban to fight even harder" — that's one very toxic combination for Afghanistan. And "the cynical among us" might fear this jackpot will be a "shiny new reason to keep [an American] military presence in Afghanistan forever."
"Afghanistan strikes it rich"
U.S. troops are the only bulwark agains chaos: This new wealth, and China's lust for it, could be just the empowering excuse Afghan President Hamid Karzai needs to kick America out, actually, says Aziz Poonawalla in BeliefNet. But let's hope not. U.S. troops are the only thing that will keep the "resource curse" from ravaging Afghanistan. That may be "distasteful," but the alternatives are certainly worse.
"Afghanistan's trillion-dollar curse: lithium"
Take the report with a grain of salt: Given how badly things are going in the war, the timing of this leak is suspicious, says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. But so is the mineral discovery itself. Neither the Brits nor the Russians uncovered this wealth during their occupation, but a "relatively limited geographical survey" from the U.S. turns it up in a few years? At best it seems "a little out of the blue."
"Karzai as Ibn Saud"
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