The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.
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.
Of course, the Russians knew about the reserves back when they were mired in Afghanistan. The US knew about the reserves since at least 2007, although a dollar figure wasn't assigned until just recently. That said, it's still difficult for me to believe that the US was totally in the dark about the extensive mineral wealth that war-torn nation is sitting on until just recently. Certain decisions, among them the ramping up of US forces in Afghanistan, could clearly be explained by the knowledge of the rainbow future of that small nation.
Of course, the good news for Afghanistan is that its economy can move from dependence on poppies and international handouts to mining and manufacturing. The bad news for Afghanistan is that its economy will be moving from dependence on agriculture to international mining interests blowing its mountain tops off and polluting its water. And the US is already assisting the Afghans in making that transition.
Watching how this plays out is going to be interesting, but one thing is clear: our troops won't be coming home from Afghanistan any time soon.