The New York Times reported Monday that Afghanistan is sitting on a game-changing $1 trillion worth of minerals, but many commentators aren't buying it. With the U.S. war effort going poorly, these critics argue, this juicy repackaging of apparently stale news looks like a planted story designed to convince Americans and their allies of the stakes and potential rewards involved. Is the mineral "discovery" more Pentagon PR than breaking news? (Watch a Russia Today report about the New York Times' mineral scoop)
We're being played: The Times' big scoop "is accurate, but the news is not that new," says Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic. The U.S. knew of the potential gold mine of mineral wealth by 2007, and the Soviets knew in 1985, or earlier. So why trumpet this "valid (but already public) information" now? It sure looks like "a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war."
"The mineral miracle? Or a massive information operation?"
It's not all PR: There are plenty of reasons to regard the report with skepticism, says Blake Hounshell in Foreign Policy, but the Pentagon insists its "conservative" $908 billion estimate for the Afghan mineral trove is based on recent "field work" to determine which of 24 potential sites are economically viable. Even so, "this is a country that can't even pay its police ... let alone build roads." It may be decades before Afghanistan can tap these resources.
"More on Afghanistan's mineral riches"
A trillion dollars isn't what it used to be: Let's say the lithium and other minerals are not only worth $1 trillion, but also that they can be extracted at a profit — a big "if," says Juan Cole in Informed Consent. What's the big deal? "For a country of 34 million, it isn’t that much money": A decade of a "lower-middle-class" $100 billion years, then "back to grinding poverty." So, news? I say "hype."
"Meh story about $1 Trillion in Minerals in Afghanistan"