President Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly expressed interest in harnessing Afghanistan’s mineral resources valued in 2010 by the Pentagon at about $1 trillion.
The U.S. president has discussed the prospect of extracting the material with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who has promoted mining as an economic opportunity for his country, one of the poorest in the world, reports the New York Times (NYT), adding:
Mr. Trump, who is deeply skeptical about sending more American troops to Afghanistan, has suggested that this could be one justification for the United States to stay engaged in the country. To explore the possibilities, the White House is considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to meet with mining officials.
While the United States has invested billions in nation building in Afghanistan, neighboring China has been tapping into what is believed to be one of the richest troves of minerals in the world.
President Trump is trying to change that equation and ensure the United States benefits from its multi-year investment.
“Officials said Mr. Trump was determined not to spend American lives and treasure in Afghanistan only to watch China lock up its rare-earth deposits, which are used to make products from wind turbines to computer chips,” points out the Times.
Members of the Trump administration reportedly met with chemical executive Michael N. Silver last week to discuss the potential of mining the minerals.
American Elements, Silver’s company, specializes in the minerals found in Afghanistan, which are used in a range of high-tech products, notes the Times:
Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who is informally advising Mr. Trump on Afghanistan, is also looking into ways to exploit the country’s minerals, according to a person who has briefed him. Mr. Feinberg owns a large military contracting firm, DynCorp International, which could play a role in guarding mines — a major concern, given that some of Afghanistan’s richest deposits are in areas controlled by the Taliban.
Through aerial surveys conducted in 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has determined that Afghanistan may hold millions of tons of useful minerals that the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations estimated in 2010 to be worth $908 billion.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government has valued the country’s mineral deposits at about $3 trillion.
NYT notes that the Pentagon’s estimate has been widely disputed and has likely fallen since.
Afghanistan holds at least “60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium,” reported NBC News, citing the USGS.
A state-owned Chinese mining company has already reached a 30-year, $3 billion contract with the Afghan government to exploit the country’s copper deposit.
The Taliban has reportedly reached an agreement with China that allows Beijing to mine Afghanistan without worrying about the safety of its workers.
Most of the mineral deposits are believed to be in Taliban-stronghold Helmand province, located along the Pakistan border.
“There are undoubtedly minerals to be exploited in Afghanistan, which could help provide economic stability to the country in the future,” Daniel Feldman, a former special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan told NYT. “But given all the obstacles, it could be many years before mining yields dividends for the Afghan people.”
Displeased with what has been presented to him during a contentious meeting last week, President Trump has refused to sign off on proposals developed by the Pentagon and the White House’s National Security Council.
Breitbart News learned that Trump will not settle for a plan that resembles the failed ones of the past.