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Afghan Tech Minerals — Cure, Curse, Or Hype?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the all-of-the-above dept.

Earth 184

Gooseygoose writes "The Pentagon revealed recently that Afghanistan has as much as $1 trillion in mineral wealth, a potential game changer in the ongoing conflict there. Many news outlets have picked up this story, some simply repeating the official talking points, while others raise serious concerns. Is this 'discovery' just hype, or will it truly alter the landscape of the Afghan war? Perhaps more importantly, can this mineral wealth (whether real or illusory) pave the way to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, or is it more likely to drive geopolitical feedback loops that plunge the region further into turmoil?" Relatedly, Marc Ambinder wrote a few days ago in the Atlantic that the US had knowledge of vast mineral deposits in Afghanistan several years ago, giving the recent announcement the appearance of a PR campaign.

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184 comments

Do I have to choose? (4, Insightful)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616540)

It is all three.

Re:Do I have to choose? (1, Interesting)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616946)

And what we will do again is to develop the natural resources in yet another unstable, chaotic, barbaric society.

Re:Do I have to choose? (1)

spidercoz (947220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617090)

exactly. drag them out of the dark ages first

Re:Do I have to choose? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617440)

exactly. drag them out of the dark ages first

But that would be cultural imperialism!

(and if we're going to do it, can we drag certain parts of the US out too?)

Re:Do I have to choose? (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617554)

Imperialism, schmerialism. It's a loaded word anyhow. The question is, did anyone over there ask for our help? If not, their problems (and their mineral assets) are none of our concern.

Re:Do I have to choose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32617608)

just wait in three hundred for the history to repeat itself.

my bet is that by that time, afghani will live in reserves, selling cigars and running casinos

Re:Do I have to choose? (3, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617774)

The question is, did anyone over there ask for our help?

I have memories of them asking for us to not cease sending them help when the USSR stopped invading in the late eighties.

As for the minerals - geological surveys take time, this one identifies deposits scattered throughout the country, so it's fairly thourough. The resources have been know of for some time, but I think this announcement was delayed until the survey was complete.

Re:Do I have to choose? (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32618070)

The survey has been complete for months. And major wartime funding has been up for renewal. It wasn't renewed. Then the report was released, and now a bunch of representatives are asking themselves, "Who gets the development contracts?" Welcome to realpolitik.

Re:Do I have to choose? (2, Funny)

Xyrus (755017) | more than 4 years ago | (#32618050)

Good thing don't have oil there or we might have to invade them.

Obviously a plot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32617546)

Obviously the reason the mineral wealth wasn't released years ago is because Republicans were in charge of the US government. They wanted to steal it, of course, but the only way to do that is to keep it secret. Why do you think Bush really wanted to invade Iraq? Remember that Iraq was under oil-export restrictions! Booting out Saddam allowed the restrictions to be removed, and incidently allowed US interests to start stealing oil, since they were controlling the place. Such thefts are quite typical of Republican policies--read a good history text if you don't believe me.

Re:Obviously a plot (1)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617890)

Obviously the reason the mineral wealth wasn't released years ago is because Republicans were in charge of the US government. They wanted to steal it, of course, but the only way to do that is to keep it secret. Why do you think Bush really wanted to invade Iraq? Remember that Iraq was under oil-export restrictions! Booting out Saddam allowed the restrictions to be removed, and incidently allowed US interests to start stealing oil, since they were controlling the place. Such thefts are quite typical of Republican policies--read a good history text if you don't believe me.

This idea that american GOPers are somehow the only politicians and businessmen in the world that launch aggressive campaigns to take control of natural resources is absurd. The majority of people with any kind of power want more power. Their position on the political spectrum is irrelevant. Their desires are what counts. The only difference is who they pander to, and sometimes that isn't all that different.

Re:No choice - its FUD (2, Insightful)

kubitus (927806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617094)

M$ tactics deployed by DOD

Re:No choice - its FUD (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617448)

I thought the DOD used them first. They got the idea from the British Empire.

Re:Do I have to choose? (5, Interesting)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617242)

It's a funny thing that having wonderful natural resources dampens other parts of the economy. It's called Dutch Disease [wikipedia.org] , and was diagnosed some time ago. Kind of makes you want to re-read Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel.

Re:Do I have to choose? (5, Interesting)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617316)

It is all three.

I doubt it is hype. There's technologies deployed right this moment in Afghanistan that people could only dream about as little as five years ago. The sheer flood of data generated by any attempt to map an entire country's mineral deposits would have been impossible to even just store (much less process) when people were unaccustomed to using the term "TB". It is not in the least surprising that we're now finding things like this that were there all along right under our nose. If only we had the capability to store a kilobyte of spectral data per square meter of a whole country.

I also doubt that this will make Afghanistan any better off. In terms of mineral wealth, Africa is the richest continent on earth. Most of the interesting metals (from uranium to gold) and most of the expensive non-metal materials (from diamonds to sapphires) are found in Africa. And all that wealth has bough it ... what exactly?

(And I am not in the least suggesting that the Pentagon has been mapping Afghanistan in a humanitarian effort to chart its wealth. The same spectroscopic technologies that tell you "this mountain is full of Chromium" will also tell you that it is "full of opium", "full of dynamite" or even "full of people").

Re:Do I have to choose? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32617778)

I vote none of the above. It's not a cure (Shit's going to stay bad there), it's not a curse (It's not going to make anything WORSE, the minerals are too hard to extract to be like, say, blood diamonds), and it's not hype (There IS a massive mineralogical deposit there... it's been known for, what, thirty years?).

This is a case (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616544)

This seems to be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Bush warned us about this long ago and tried to save us.

I don't think he mean what you think it mean (2, Funny)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616698)

This seems to be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Bush warned us about this long ago and tried to save us.

I've always thought what der Führer Shrub advocated was to chop off the left wing... hand so that right hand is accountable to no one and need not share anything with anyone.

Re:This is a case (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616758)

Bush warned us about this long ago and tried to save us.

That's one way to look at it... the other way to look at it was that he was using that as an excuse for everything.

Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32616576)

Yeah, the Russians knew about this in 1985. Strangely enough, no one has been able to profit off of these resources. It's a matter of risk. That territory has been disputed since the time of Genghis Khan and nobody really has had a handle on it. It's like Alaskan King Crabbing. Why can't we go to war and make that a safe endeavor?

I do agree that this seems like PR.

I've heard some of the surveys (2, Insightful)

swschrad (312009) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616584)

go back to the Soviet occupation days.

proving once again that some governments are simply so corrupt they can't sell anything because the bribes are too complex to figure out, even with computers.

Re:I've heard some of the surveys (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616870)

Are you sure it's not because the map of teritory under real control (an essential thing for large scale utilisation of resources...) looks like this [wikimedia.org] ? (not that much different nowadays...)

And of course the issue on the part of Afghanis isn't that merely the government is corrupt...

It is just PR... (5, Informative)

Maddog Batty (112434) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616586)

El Reg just thinks it is a complete PR exercise.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/06/18/afghanistan_mineral_report/ [theregister.co.uk]

Extracting the wealth is neither simple or sensible.

Re:It is just PR... (2, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616876)

I read the reasoning and much of it was infrastructure rather than it not being there or straight out infeasible in all instances. China will swoop in sometime (not necessarily waiting until we leave) and invest in the good mines, as they are doing all over Africa and other parts of the world while our government is investing in failed banks and overunionized industries.

I don't see this as a bad thing, China is growing and they'll need copper from somewhere. And I don't think it's cost effective to keep the military there, what are we spending on Afghan will exceed $72B so that's 15 years max at the estimates.... and extracting that stuff isn't free nor is it ours.

http://www.nationalpriorities.org/costofwar_home [nationalpriorities.org]

Re:It is just PR... (2, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617256)

It' s not at all unreasonable that there's a trillion dollars in "mineral wealth" there.

Sand is worth about $9/ton, so just scraping off and selling the top 8.5 cm of the country will get them a $trillion at retail.

The question is what kind of profit is there to be had on it?

Even if it were simple or sensible... (3, Interesting)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617326)

...it still doesn't mean diddly to the average Afghan. They just have to look at Africa to know that none of them will see any benefit from this. To the average Joe on the street, all this means is that the local street thugs who make their lives miserable will have better weapons.

Potentially up to $3 trillion (2, Interesting)

sean_nestor (781844) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616602)

Afghan minerals may reach 3 trillion dollars: minister [google.com]

Again - no idea whether this is true or just hype, but thought it was worth mentioning.

Re:Potentially up to $3 trillion (1)

Dracos (107777) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617190)

Mostly due to the USD losing 66.6667% of its current value by the time any sizable western-based mining operations can begin.

I read somewhere that China swooped in and got at least ten mines operational during the 90's, and some of them may still be running.

Might as well try this too (5, Interesting)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616628)

It's obviously a PR stunt, but really that might be what they need.

It's not clear what the US goal is in Afghanistan, and how to get there. But the possibility of mineral wealth can be a useful fact in affecting the calculus of other countries in how they deal with the conflict. The possibility of lots of lithium can be very important to the Chinese, and having their backing in making Afghanistan stable would be very welcome. It's going to be a corrupt hellhole no matter what the US does, but if enough other countries want it to be a stable, mineral-producing, corrupt hellhole then maybe it will be.

Re:Might as well try this too (0)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616990)

Why would China give a damn about stabilizing/invading Afghanistan to get lithium?

The only pundit who even raised this point was some Fox news talking head. Rebuttals from anyone who was halfway educated were of the form "WTF?"

China is using imports for raw materials (cheaper today than ever,) and its foreign policy is focused on economics (and Africa strategically at that.)

Re:Might as well try this too (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617772)

China has been investing its profits into natural resource extraction the world over. It's a very smart strategy. They aren't invading, they might attempt a little stabilization; what they are really doing is simple: investing. Your second sentence in fact answers the question raised by (obviously only) halfway educated pundits. Imports. Economic focus. Put it all together, while removing the reference to invasion no one but you made.

Fox of course are idiots, only the US seems to think you need to invade a country to gobble up its natural resources. Physical warfare is so last millennium. Smart countries send in corporations with money and lawyers, not armies with guns and tanks.

Re:Might as well try this too (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616998)

"Scenic Afghanistan: The Nigeria of the Middle East"...

Re:Might as well try this too (1)

Glith (7368) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617164)

China is already involved in copper mining in Afghanistan, but its policy is non-interference cash and carry.

Of course, it's able to do so because there's US troops there defending their miners.

Considering (-1, Flamebait)

retardpicnic (1762292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616642)

It was the military who announced the find I think the most likely out come is incredible stability... right after America announces that Afganistan owes them for the cost of the war, so they are putting a huge permanent base there to watch over thier investment. I mean, the only thing we love more than bringing democracy places at the point of a sword is collecting what they owe us for it!

Re:Considering (1)

retardpicnic (1762292) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617580)

Whats flamebait about this? Do you honestly expect that America, who hover on the brink of complete economic collapse, is doing this for free? One of the reasons for America huge deficit is this war.... and they just "found" a trillion dollars.. Is it truly so unreasonable to assume at some point, with hundreds of thousand s of soldiers on the ground in the area that the USA will clear thier throat and mention the cost?

Wealth won't help (3, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616660)

Poor religious nutballs will just become rich religious nutballs. And if anyone thinks that the Afghan mainstream aren't a bunch of religious nutballs, go rent a documentary called Afghan Star [imdb.com] (about the Afghan equivalent of "American Idol") and watch what happens when a female contestant dares to dance on stage.

Re:Wealth won't help (4, Informative)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616924)

This is a problem both the left and the right don't seem to be able to face. The majority of people in a lot of middle eastern counties support a kind of religious tyranny whether they are wealthy or not. Not all people, by any means, but a majority. Bring democracy and wealth to these places without liberalism is not going to get the results we want. In fact it's going to bring disaster, by giving radical religious tyranny democratic legitimacy and the wealth to throw their weight around.

The liberal part of rich liberal democracies is the most important ingredient. Democracy is more of a safety valve, the riches a by-product (and luck, of course).

Re:Wealth won't help (5, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617470)

There is a long-standing belief in the west that you can fight religious intolerance and hatred with prosperity and education (i.e. "These people are only religious fanatics because they're poor and desperate, or because they're just ignorant and in need of education." But the hard truth is that this is just not the case. You can give a fanatic wealth and education, and that won't change them a bit. If you don't believe it, read the bio of the most infamous one of all [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Wealth won't help (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617858)

The common wisdom leaves out liberalism altogether, the debate being whether democracy brings about wealth or wealth brings democracy. I like your argument better, as it explains more of the actual facts in places like the middle east.

Re:Wealth won't help (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617140)

Exactly. It's not like oppressive Islamic theocracies haven't discovered mineral riches before. They merely become rich, oppressive, Islamic theocracies. Whether it's lithium or oil makes no difference.

Several years (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616664)

Yes, it was clearly stated that some of the information used to research these deposits was found in Russian documents left over from the occupation.

So since these documents were discovered (in country) several years ago, clearly they knew about it several years ago.

But So what? The Russians knew about it even LONGER ago, but some how this is ignored when raising the question of whether the deposits are "real or illusory".

It takes time to follow someone else's notes, written in Russian, get core samples (in a war zone). On what date should the announcement have been made?

The Russians knew, and hid it from the Afgans. The US/Nato surveyed the deposits and published it.

Somehow US/Nato gets scapegoated and the Russians are forgotten.

What's up with that?

Re:Several years (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616948)

It takes time to follow someone else's notes, written in Russian, get core samples (in a war zone).

If you read the original NY Times article, they did arial surveys over most of the country, not boots on the ground core samples.

Re:Several years (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616980)

Okay, just going out on a limb here, but maybe people kinda expect the Russians to be secretive and diabolical, but hold NATO to an higher standard?

Re:Several years (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617116)

Then why not recognize when they meet that standard by documenting and mapping Russian preliminary findings and PUBLISHING the information and providing it to the Afghans?

Why the sinister suggestions of evil intent?

Re:Several years (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617938)

Then why not recognize when they meet that standard by documenting and mapping Russian preliminary findings and PUBLISHING the information and providing it to the Afghans?

Why the sinister suggestions of evil intent?

Because congress just turned down a military request for more funds for the first time in decades. This report has been ready for ages, the military has been saving it for just such an occasion. The idea being, every representative will be thinking, who gets the contracts to develop? Someone from my state, or another state? The military gets a big say in this: this company can perform work in a war zone, this one isn't capable, and so on. So, it isn't so much a sinister suggestion of evil intent as glaring example of realpolitik in action.

Re:Several years (4, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617192)

What's up with that?

What's up is that the people who brought you Iraqi WMDs are lying again.

The numbers are fictitious and "Stephen Peters, the head of the USGS’s Afghanistan Minerals Project, said that he was unaware of USGS involvement in any new surveying for minerals in Afghanistan in the past two years. 'We are not aware of any discoveries of lithium,' he said." [timesonline.co.uk]

So the Pentagon has basically gathered up a bunch of old data, done some overflight surveys with no ground truth, and made up numbers. Anyone who knows anything about geology knows what a tricky business mineral exploration is, even without deliberate fraud, and yet the American media reacted with breathless excitment rather than honest and fully justified scepticism to this propaganda.

What's up with that?

Re:Several years (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617282)

Why would the USGS be involved?

Of course he knows nothing, his mandate is state side.

Arial survey (magnetometer) of these kinds of minerals is pretty accurate, and you can contract for that privately.

In order to believe your conspiracy theory, you have to believe it was all planned and started when the Russians were occupying the country.

Tinfoil hat much?

What are THOSE AFGHANS... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32616700)

What are THOSE AFGHANS doing sitting on OUR MINERALS?

Re:What are THOSE AFGHANS... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#32618002)

Granny just covered up the minerals with afghans [wikipedia.org] because she fricken' covers everything with afghans.

Imperial Colonialism has always worked this way (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616738)

We have people in our country (the U.S.) and in other countries who want access to the resources of Afghanistan. They will (and probably already have) petitioned their governments for [military] protection as they attempt to claim these resources. If there is enough money in these resources, there will be enough military presence installed in a region to protect the people and equipment used to exorcise the resources. The by-product of a successful military protection campaign is that a region will also become more pacified and civilized. But a balance must be achieved. That balance is to maintain sufficient military strength while also keeping those who might be in opposition as pacified as possible. Without that balance, you have rebellion and revolution.

So, in short, be armed with weapons and keep the locals happy.

Re:Imperial Colonialism has always worked this way (2, Insightful)

zrelativity (963547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617814)

Ah, people either do not study history or are incapable of thinking. Just remember the history of the British East India Company.

Call James Cameron (1)

RodRooter (1835462) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616762)

Well if it's "unobtanium" I'm sure it'll resolve itself peacefully. That worked out great for everyone.

No, wait.

Annoucements are PR (3, Insightful)

eightball (88525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616780)

That much is true. However accounting requires discovery, then investigation.

If the US government had announced three years ago a large estimate of mineral wealth based on the fact that some soldiers noticed a lot of ore lying around, would we be saying "at least they are not trying to make a big deal out of 3 year old news!"?

My impression is politically, POTUS would rather be saying "so Afghanistan, you got the check? I'm outta here" as opposed to "great another set of targets to defend!".

Oh great.... (1)

TehNoobTrumpet (1836716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616816)

So will the good ol' USA be "liberating" Afghanistan now?

Re:Oh great.... (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617574)

So will the good ol' USA be "liberating" Afghanistan now?

"Mission Accomplished".

Oh so ridiculous (4, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616828)

What a ridiculous story.

Nobody is going to invest the needed billions of dollars in a country with no real government, no laws, no protection for private property, and every expectation of being taken over by the Taliban as soon as the US army leaves.

It would take billions in up-front investment, as Afghanistan does not have any of the needed things: water, power, roads, engineers, chemical plants, railroads, ports, diging machines, huge trucks, smelters, coal, oil, and gas. Billions, and at least ten years to build the infrastructure before a pound of ore comes out of there.

And minerals only get extracted if the cost is less there than from the developed sources. That's unlikely, due to the needed up-front investment. And one of the alleged largest supplies, Lithium, is already being mined very, very cheaply in South America, where there are huge easily-accessed deposits.

Re: Oh so ridiculous (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617350)

Nobody is going to invest the needed billions of dollars in a country with no real government, no laws, no protection for private property, and every expectation of being taken over by the Taliban as soon as the US army leaves.

It would take billions in up-front investment, as Afghanistan does not have any of the needed things: water, power, roads, engineers, chemical plants, railroads, ports, diging machines, huge trucks, smelters, coal, oil, and gas. Billions, and at least ten years to build the infrastructure before a pound of ore comes out of there.

Also, if they were able to extract it at the rate of 50 billion dollars worth per year - to put their economy in the same league as such heavyweights as Syria and Bulgaria [wikipedia.org] - there would only be a 20 year boom before it was exhausted.

And of course, most of the money would go into the pockets of the corporations that extracted it, rather than into the Afghan economy.

Of course they knew... (1)

dragisha (788) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616844)

And I think it's almost sure Soviets knew it too... Such things are not something to be hidden, not even in 20th century :).

Number is just for news, so round and nice... Real number is probably few times, if not order of magnitude, bigger than that.

Reason is probably PR... In current crisis, what better way to renew economy vigor thab some vast riches "we can have just by keeping military there?"

Probably Hype (1)

fredmosby (545378) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616886)

There are valuable minerals everywhere. The question is are the minerals worth more than it would cost to mine them.

Re:Probably Hype (1)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617218)

True. Afghanistan is about the size of Texas. Any mountainous land mass that big is bound to have mineral wealth, just based upon the law of averages. The issues are always related to acquisition cost.

what's sad... (0, Troll)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616916)

...is that the only thing that can economically save the Afghans is complete and utter environmental destruction.

Re:what's sad... (1)

raind (174356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617322)

Huh? please do tell us the wisdom of your reasoning. Do you mean eradicating the poppies? What if every country legalized heroin, cocaine and mj, would not the price come down?

Re:what's sad... (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617406)

I was talking about mining.

For them to realize the mineral wealth, they would have to destroy a lot of nature to do it. And things like tailings piles leaching into their water supplies...

Excuse me if I'm skeptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32616928)

As soon as I heard both that it was a 2007 study, and that it was in conjuction with the pentagon, all my fishydar detectors went right off. My relative who works at high level intel (imagine politicians and military brass around all day) in Afghan immediately said the exact same thing when I called him. Everyone knows that it's either bullshit, or its a strategic move to distract us from the fact that Afhanistan is a nigh unwinnable war, and we need to GTFO as soon as possible. (but that is only if we have national security and interests on the mind, which is obviously not the case) This is your brain. This is your brain on money and cognitive dissonance. I am a former USMC Iraq vet who slowly started realizing what was really going on. Since I got out, I have been on a personal mission to figure out for myself wtf has happened in the middle east. I started with localized issues in Iraq, and followed the problems up the chain. I am just now getting into washington, and its revolving door with corporations, think tanks, and heads of states (or princes of the Al Saud faimly) and how it all works together. I still don't even have the slightest idea for a solution to this issue. (the overall issue of negligence, willfull ignorance, and deceit by the power elite, and how it affects us). I'm a cynic, just an idealist who was dissapointed one to many times. Fuck it.

Re:Excuse me if I'm skeptical (1)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617176)

Hey, major resources in developing countries has worked out so well in the past right!? ...input list of third world countries beset by war, corruption, famine and secretarian violence here..... oh maybe not. (stolen from the daily show or colbert report can't remember which)

Oil found off Vietnam (4, Interesting)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#32616944)

That was the announcement in 1974 courtesy of the Pentagon. Need we explore this further?

It will be just like oil (2, Interesting)

jprupp (697660) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617004)

I am from Venezuela, and our experience with oil is that it's more of a bane. Rich countries rarely arise where there are valuable mineral resources. These merely become corrupt underdevelopped monoproducing big mines controlled by an economical and political elite or neo-communist populist totalitarian ruler.

It's a bit overdue, (3, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617012)

But it looks like they finally found Whopping Mineral Deposits in Afghanistan.

Time to go after those WMDs, folks.

Re:It's a bit overdue, (1, Troll)

warGod3 (198094) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617404)

Wrong presidency. The current president will send them money to help develop their resources.

We're forgetting someone (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617022)

One of the prevailing sentiments is "the Russians found it first and forgot about it." They didn't forget about it, they were too busy fighting insurgents to ever exploit the resources. Then, once they got kicked out, the nation got taken over by tribal infighting and eventually the Taliban. They seemed a little to concerned with actively driving their nation into some sort of religious dark age to consider maybe making use of their natural resources. The Taliban were legitimate bad guys. It's kind of a shame that the war on terror has gotten them mislabeled as some sort of a neo-con boogey man than the dark age, koran-thumping hicks that they were / are.

If you want to blame anyone for not getting the mineral rush ball rolling for ten+ years, why not blame the guys that were in charge?

Re:We're forgetting someone (3, Informative)

TDyl (862130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617158)

"The Taliban were legitimate bad guys"

These are the same "Taliban" that the US funded for decades and for whom they provided training and other non-munition resources. The history of the US is one of hypocrisy and so many double standards that I wonder if you are on no one elses side other than your own perverted sense of morality and ethics.

Re:We're forgetting someone (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617562)

The U.S.'s mistake doesn't excuse what the Taliban did, or change the fact that they were legitimate bad guys--of epic proportion.

Re:We're forgetting someone (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617618)

These are the same "Taliban" that the US funded for decades

Citation needed.

Re:We're forgetting someone (2, Informative)

eightball (88525) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617660)

The Taliban has only existed since 1994, so that gives them at most 7 years of funding opportunity before they ran afoul of the US. Even so, I can only remember some anti-drug money going to the Taliban.

Ok, so you respond, we armed and funded the mujahedin, part of which eventually formed the Taliban. This is not what you stated in this post, though. Glad to know you never made a decision that went against your initial hopes, though.

Re:We're forgetting someone (0, Offtopic)

TDyl (862130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617860)

begin marvin head
begin no disrespect
I have no hopes in this world, of this world or even beyond this world; I am become Cynic
end no disrespect
end marvin head

Re:We're forgetting someone (2, Insightful)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617708)

These are the same "Taliban" that the US funded for decades and for whom they provided training and other non-munition resources.

Yes, and that was a mistake. It was a worse mistake than that -- we gave them training in weapons and explosives as well. Much of the know-how in Taliban IEDs traces its source to the CIA. That said, the fact that we made mistakes in the 1980s does not preclude us from ever acting in Afghanistan again. If anything, it increases our duty to eliminate the monsters we created.

It is beyond question that American foreign policy over the past 50 years has been a mixed bag. To my mind, that truth does not help one whit in making policy for today. The consequences of those mistakes are real and we need to make policy based on what will lead to the best outcome given the facts as they are now, not how the facts may have been if we had done things differently (even if, as I've said numerous times here, we absolutely should have done things differently).

The history of the US is one of hypocrisy and so many double standards that I wonder if you are on no one elses side other than your own perverted sense of morality and ethics.

Like every other country, we bungle incompetently from time to time. Our imperfection is not the same as perverted morality -- had we foreseen in the 1980s what would come of supporting Bin Laden and the Taliban, we would have declined to get involved.

The intersection of morality and the fog of war -- the inability to reliably predict the likely outcomes of any particular act or strategy -- is a complex one. In retrospect, the War in Vietnam was profoundly immoral both in conception and execution (and the vast majority of moderate America concurs in that sentiment). Placing yourself, however, behind JFK's (that neoconservative monster!) desk and restricting yourself to the facts that he knew at the time, however, and the calculus changes.

Re:We're forgetting someone (1)

TDyl (862130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32618036)

Placing yourself, however, behind JFK's (that neoconservative monster!) desk and restricting yourself to the facts that he knew at the time, however, and the calculus changes.

A very good point and well said; I am not "against" America and the actions it has taken (going back to the invasion of the Phillipines etc), but I greatly fear any nation that uses military might to obtain assets it "needs", to enforce ***A beliefs that they are so superior to anything else they should have special protection and excessive damages to anything that usurps the right of the individual to do what he or she might wish to within the bounds of decency.

Sorry, too many beers.

Hoax is more like it (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617034)

Afghanis realizing the benefits of minerals in their contry is about as likely to happen as finding yellowcake uranium in Nigeria.

Re:Hoax is more like it (1)

uremog (931065) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617300)

Just watch...

Re:Hoax is more like it (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617876)

Yellowcake uranium is easy to find in Niger. The question was whether Saddam was trying to buy it or not, and why.

Deja Vu? (1)

TDyl (862130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617036)

So KBR get more gubbermint contracts and the Afghan landscape gets as raped as their population is being.

Democracy - doesn't it make you all warm inside.

The more the merrier (2, Insightful)

Thundercleets (942968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617104)

If you stop to think about it what purpose does the Iraq and Afghanistan wars serve the US? It is not about "Democratization" as some have said as both countries have been allowed to reform under demagogues. Iraq could have been about oil but the PRC has most of the contracts. It could be about Billions to be made by insider contractions "servicing" the war.

Re:The more the merrier (2, Informative)

Xanthvar (1046980) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617776)

"If you stop to think about it what purpose does the Iraq and Afghanistan wars serve the US?"

The Afghanistan war (not Iraq), was to destroy an enemy strong hold that planned and launched an attack on the US, targeting civilians, and succeed in killing more of them, than in any other foreign attack. (No, not referring to the attack on Pearl Harbor, that at least was an attack in military targets, an US civilian casualties was collateral damage).
Yes, most of the attackers were from Saudi Arabia, but they were Al-Qaeda agents, basing out of Afghanistan.
If you attack another country, you expect them to do something back.

The purpose of the continued war in Afghanistan is to fill the power vacuum with a government that will not allow a similar thing to happen again.

The effectiveness of these two purposes, is matter for great debate. The reasons were pretty simple, the solutions are not.

Afg already has a valuable ore ... (1)

SixAndFiftyThree (1020048) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617142)

... from which heroin can be refined, earning billions of dollars a year (well, nobody knows the true number). Just one problem with that!

If there's lithium etc., then someone can pour vast amounts of money into Afghanistan without having to admit that they're either funding narcotics or enriching corrupt officials. Oh, and metals are less easy to smuggle than poppy syrup, which also gives the recognized government an advantage in trading. So it becomes possible -- hardly likely, but possible -- that Karzai or his successor will be able to afford a real army and stand up against the Taliban.

The place will still be run by warlords, just not by druglords. I don't know that I care much either way.

If it's true... (1)

agoliveira (188870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617148)

... then we found the reason behind the war.

You know what would pave the way? (3, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617180)

How about turning back the clock to 1978 and stopping Afghanistan from winding up in the middle of the US/Soviet pissing contest? Don't get me wrong, I fully think the Soviets are to blame for spoiling a hundred years of hard work by the Afghanis. But, it's all too easy to wonder what the world would have been like if the "communist threat" could have stayed inside Russia's borders, through decisive action instead of slow, "cold" influences on the region. Heck, in hindsight they may have been better off just becoming a part of the Soviet Union; we see a lot less terrorism and unrest out of the former Soviet states than this one that "won" against them. It's hard to argue that Afghanistan of today is in any better shape than the Soviet Union was at any point in it's past; if they had started rebuilding in 1991 instead of 20?? who knows how close they could be to a functioning country again.

For a look into what Afghanistan was like (and in all likelihood would still be like without direct foreign intervention) see this story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127914602 [npr.org]

Even if it is true... (5, Insightful)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617250)

Why bother spending all that money on infratstructure to extract those resources when you can just continue to profit from poppies and opiate production? God knows there will never cease to be a demand for that.

Cure, Curse or Hype? - Try Plant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32617252)

This story is a plant for British consumption.
BP will be lobbying Cameron hard to play the withdrawal card.
This story might get RTZ, XSTRATA & Billiton lobbying in the opposite direction.

not that much money (3, Insightful)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617328)

1T isn't that much money to a nation. People talk like it is going to make Afganistan rich. Lets put it in prospective: Canada ~34M people 1.3T per annum GDP. Afganistan 28M people. So all the mineral wealth of Afganistan would enable roughly the per capita GDP of Canada for one year. But of course it will take a couple generations to mine all those resources. This only takes them from poor to slightly less poor.

Re:not that much money (1)

ski-coach (1311091) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617576)

But china (or less wage) and a possible way to get them off growing drugs. some in usa already think the whole drug problem is worth 100's of billions a year. That to Afgans is probably only 1-5% of that. That and the further aware from the North America/Europe, the less people care about the working conditions, safety of even any spills/incidents.....

Re:not that much money (2, Insightful)

PapayaSF (721268) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617952)

OK, I'm going to wipe out my mod points because I can't let this go unchallenged. The GDP per capita in Afghanistan is about $800 [afghanembassyjp.com] . The GDP per capita in Canada is about $40,000 [topforeignstocks.com] . So you're saying that the equivalent of raising the GDP per capita from $800 to $40,000 for just a year, even spread out over decades, is trivial? I hope you're not a financial advisor.

Impact: Addt'l 50% of GDP per year for 40 years (2, Insightful)

Steve Hamlin (29353) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617966)

This post from economist Dean Baker's blog at CEPR [cepr.net] does some analysis that shows that extraction of $1 trillion in minerals over the next 40 years would add $300-$400 per capita per year. Current Afghanistan per-capita GDP is about $800 per year.

---
"How Much Is $1 Trillion in Afghanistan?
Source: CEPR.net / Dean Baker's 'Beat the Press' blog
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/how-much-is-1-trillion-in-afghanistan/ [cepr.net]

"The media have been highlighting projections produced by the military that show that Afghanistan may have $1 trillion of mineral wealth. It would be helpful to put this figure in some context. The NYT helpfully described this sum as being equal to $38,482.76 for every person in Afghanistan."

"It would be useful to note that this is a gross number, it does not subtract the cost of extracting the minerals nor does it consider that these resources would likely be extracted over many decades. If we assume that the cost of extracting the minerals (e.g. foreign produced equipment, foreign trained technicians, profits of foreignh companies and environmental damage -- not counting domestic Afghan labor) is between 25 and 50 percent of the value of the minerals, then the money going to Afghanis would be between $500 billion and $750 billion."

"If this money is earned over a 40-year period (Saudi Arabia has been producing oil for 80 years), then it comes to between $12.5 billion and $18.8 billion a year. Afghanistan's population is currently 29.1 million, but it is growing at the rate of 2.5 percent annually. Assuming the growth rate slows, Afghanistan's population will average about 40 million over this period. This means that the revenue from the minerals will average between $312.50 and $470 per person per year. This is still likely to have a substantial impact on Afghanistan's economy, since its current GDP per capita is just $800 on a purchasing power parity basis."

In the words of Jon Stewart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32617632)

Congratulations Afganistan, you will never not know war.

*sigh* Here's how it works (3, Insightful)

Anarchitektur (1089141) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617728)

It continues to amaze me how naive people are about how the world works, so I'm going to go ahead and break it down. This is a summary of what happens to resources in third world countries:

Because they do not possess the resources, infrastructure, or expertise to mine these minerals, they will have to contract a foreign (probably US) company to do so. To finance the operation, Afghanistan will have to take out a loan from the IMF/World Bank. The corporation(s) doing the mining will reap most of the profits, with a small percentage going to key figures in the Afghan government. The only jobs this will create for the Afghan citizens is menial labor, doing the actual mining. The resources, when gone, will only have benefited the mining/engineering firm(s) involved and the people in power in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will never be able to pay off its loan to the IMF, driving it deeper into poverty, which will, in turn, drive even more locals into the opium trade.

I just want to point out (2, Insightful)

drgould (24404) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617732)

that getting these alleged minerals out of Afghanistan is going to be a problem for western countries. Afghanistan is bordered by Iran to the west, Pakistan to the south and various other 'stans to the north.

Oddly enough, the country that might mostly benefit from this discovery is China and perhaps India. You know China must be interested.

new Slahdot poll (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 4 years ago | (#32617986)

Afghan Tech Minerals

__ Curse
__ Cure
__ Hype
__ Cowboy Neal's sandbox
__ Microsoft's real reason for going to Asia
__ Google is indexing the minerals right now
__ Other

Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32618062)

Take Iraq as a lesson. If you're invading a country for its natural resources, think again.

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