In another bad week for the US-led military forces still struggling to pacify Afghanistan, there was very good news for the forces of international capitalism emanating from the country.
A geological team led by officials from the US Department of Defense has discovered around $1 trillion [€810 billion; £670 billion] worth of untapped mineral deposits including iron, gold, cobalt and lithium.
Although much of the deposits are in regions with ongoing heavy violence, consultants have already been brought in to help the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai to sell the mining rights to multinational corporations. Wahidullah Shahrani, the minister of mines, is due to meet potential investors in London next week.
Afghanistan’s current national mining law, introduced in 2005, is as much a product of the World Bank as it is of the Afghan government, and as such is very favourable to foreign companies looking to exploits the country’s mineral wealth.
There will also be no shortage of political interest in how the exploitation licenses are distributed. When the rights to a large copper deposit near Kabul was given to a Chinese company in 2008, former US Congressman Don Ritter asked why it should have gone to a country that has not contributed numbers to the NATO military force in the country. Ritter is also president of the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, an organisation seeking to promote neo-conservative ideas in Afghanistan.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai has said that the value of the deposits could actually be upwards of $3 trillion [€2.4 trillion; £2 trillion]. Speaking in Japan today [Friday], he said that: “Morally, Afghanistan should give access as a priority to those countries that have helped Afghanistan massively in the past few years.”
Add to all of this the notoriously corrupt nature of the Karzai government, and it becomes clear that regardless of whomever wins out in the struggle to control the natural resources of Afghanistan, it will be the ordinary Afghan people who lose out.
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