Are Mineral Deposits Worth Prolonging the U.S. Afghanistan War & Risking Troops Lives?
A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey estimated $1 trillion in mineral deposits sit underground in Afghanistan. Will Trump prolong the U.S. Afghanistan War?
Trump is reportedly considering prolonging the U.S. Afghanistan War in order to secure a rich array of mineral deposits in Afghanistan according to a New York Times report that came out last week. To be clear, the U.S. has shown interest in Afghanistan’s minerals before. Trump appears to be re-opening that interest. The Times reported “three of Mr. Trump’s senior aides met with a chemical executive, Michael N. Silver, to discuss the potential for extracting rare-earth minerals. Mr. Silver’s firm, American Elements, specializes in these minerals, which are used in a range of high-tech products.” This news comes just as two U.S. soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on this past Wednesday.
Afghanistan’s Mineral Deposits
A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey estimated the worth of mineral deposits in Afghanistan to be around $1 trillion but that was when the deposits were selling at their highest. According to the Times article, Afghanistan’s copper and iron ore are now trading at one-third of 2010 prices. Headlines in 2010 portrayed Afghanistan’s minerals as a recent discovery. However, Politico reported the U.S., Russia, the World Bank, the U.N. have all known about the minerals since the 1970’s. The Pentagon under the Obama administration even tried to build a mining industry in Afghanistan according to the Times article.
Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire and owner of the military contracting firm, DynCorp International, is reportedly Trump’s unofficial Afghanistan adviser. DynCorp is notorious for allegations (brought by former employees) that Dyncorp employees engaged in child sex trafficking in Bosnia. Dyncorp could play a role in protecting the mines as the Times suggests. The Times says Feinberg has even reached out to people involved in the “Obama administration’s effort to build Afghanistan’s mining industry.” The question to be asked then is, what is behind the motivation to mine Afghanistan? Is it an effort help Afghanistan reap the benefits of their own mineral riches and rebuild their country or is it an effort to seize a foreign country’s natural resources and turn them into profit for American corporations?
To the “Victor Belong The Spoils”
Trump loves making money and has not been shy to say so. He has repeatedly used the phrase “to the victor belong the spoils” in reference to Iraq and his belief that the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil. The prospect of billions of dollars in minerals sitting underground in Afghanistan could tempt the President enough to sway his opinion on the future of the U.S. Afghanistan War. Additionally, Trump has reportedly been upset with his generals over their proposed Afghanistan strategies and even suggested firing the U.S. commander of forces in Afghanistan. Mining for Afghanistan’s minerals could provide Trump with much needed direction.
Cost of the U.S. Afghanistan War
Setting up mines in Afghanistan would require prolonging the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Many of the mineral rich areas are in the Taliban’s possession as the Times article reports. The 16-year-long U.S. Afghanistan War is already the longest in U.S. history and has cost the lives of 2402 U.S. soldiers. Financially, the war has cost the U.S. over $1 trillion between 2001 and 2014. One report claims the war costs Americans $4 million an hour.
Mining in Afghanistan
Given the international community has known about Afghanistan’s minerals since at least the 70’s, why mine now in 2017? Is there anything to suggest that mining now in 2017 is any better of an idea than it has been for the last 50 years?
Not really, according to the Times. Officials from the mining effort in the Obama years warned Feinberg “that the prospects for a profitable business are worse now than in 2009, given the decline in commodities prices and the deteriorating security in areas where the deposits are believed to lie.” However, there is one significant change. Afghanistan President Ghani was opposed to Obama’s mining efforts. Now, the Times reports, Ghani has reversed his stance and his in fact called Trump to promote Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.
The Future of The U.S. Afghanistan War
Trump already approved an increase of 4,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. is no stranger to fighting wars over natural resources and for economic reasons. But those motives have always been covertly hidden behind a hefty dose of patriotic and humanitarian propaganda. Will Americans tolerate Trump risking U.S. lives for Afghanistan minerals? Sixteen years is a long time to be at war and Americans are tired of it. American’s want their soldiers home and not risking their lives to turn a profit for American corporations.