For the Global Thinker

Monday, June 14, 2010

US discovers $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan

A thriving opium industry, a natural gas pipeline and trillions in untapped mineral resources; all of the sudden the stakes in Afghanistan are considerably higher just fighting the war on terrorism or in the Taleban's view fighting for the return to their homeland. Here are four stories that better explain the situation...

1. Afghanistan has up to $1trillion (£690bn) worth of untapped mineral resources which could revolutionise the country's economy and perhaps even the war, American officials have said.

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. The NY Times added that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of Lithium."



Not to be outdone, the Taleban also have their mines as well...

2. Taleban tap into SWAT's Emeralds

The mines, which produce emeralds of international quality, were previously controlled by the Pakistani government.

They were taken over by the Taleban four months ago following a ceasefire between militants and the government.

When fully operational, they yielded a quarter of a million carats of emeralds between 1978 and 1988, according to official statistics.

The last official estimate put the projected yield at about 13.2m carats.



3. Asia's new 'great game' is all about pipelines

Pipelines are important today in the same way that railway building was important in the 19th century. They connect trading partners and influence the regional balance of power.

Both Georgia and Afghanistan are seen as energy bridges – transit routes for the export of land-locked hydrocarbons.

Washington has long promoted a gas pipeline south from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. It would pass through Kandahar.

Realistic or not, construction is planned to start in 2010, and Canadian Forces are committed until December 2011. Richard Boucher, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, said last year: "One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan," and to link South and Central Asia "so that energy can flow to the south."

Recently, Defence Minister Peter MacKay told a Halifax talk show that Canadian troops were not in Afghanistan "specifically" to guard a pipeline, but "if the Taliban are attacking certain projects, then yes we will play a

Unwittingly or willingly, Canadian forces are supporting American goals



But can the West hold on to it?

4. Afghan president 'has lost faith in US ability to defeat Taliban'

Afghanistan's former head of intelligence says President Hamid Karzai is increasingly looking to Pakistan to end insurgency

Amrullah Saleh, who resigned last weekend, believes the president lost confidence some time ago in the ability of Nato forces to defeat the Taliban.

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