Monday, June 14, 2010

Afghan mineral report: Suspicious timing

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan
James Risen, The New York Times: The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan... including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium... American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war... The Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan.

Paul Jay, The Real News Network: What the NYT describes as... 'the previously unknown deposits' were in fact quite well known... Did the knowledge of these massive mineral deposits affect President Obama's decision to increase troop levels and widen the scale of operations in Afghanistan? Are Canada, the UK and other NATO countries aware of the USGS report?

Justin Elliot, TPM: American geologists who assessed Afghanistan's mineral deposits realized the potentially vast economic benefits of the minerals as far back as 2007, according to U.S. Geological survey documents from that time.

The 2007 assessment unveiled at the 3rd annual U.S.-Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference organized by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

Katie Drummond, Danger Room: One retired U.S. official is calling the government's mineral announcement 'pretty silly.'... 'When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970s the [U.S. government], the Russians, the World Bank, the UN and others were all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposits.'

Blake Hounshell, Foreign Policy: A series of recent news stories has deeply damaged the Obama administration's case for continued patience with U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign, which has shown little discernible progress... In short, things don't look good for the United States -- which makes me suspicious of the timing of this attention-grabbing story.

Huffington Post: Opponents of the war have questioned whether Monday's Times story is the Pentagon's latest attempt to persuade an increasingly frustrated American public that Afghanistan is worth the costs in blood and treasure.

Laura Rozen, Politico: Some detect an echo of Petraeus' effort 'to put a little more time on the Washington clock'... as he once described his public relations strategy... Another Washington Afghanistan hand said... 'It makes security much less likely... I am not at all the least bit optimistic that the Afghan people themselves will see the benefit of this.'... He read the minerals story that 'the administration really needs something to staunch the feeling that let's just get the hell out.'...

'Unfortunately, one becomes a cynic after all these years and all these stories,' an Afghan-American engaged in the country said of the news reports... 'My personal feeling is that all this hype is a distraction and misleading, as it builds up the expectations while we... have come up short on meeting the basic needs of the country.'

The Wall Street Journal, 01/27/10: The Mines Ministry has long been considered among Afghanistan's most corrupt government departments, and Western officials have repeatedly expressed reservations about the Afghan government awarding concessions for the country's major mineral deposits, fearful that corrupt officials would hand contracts to bidders who pay the biggest bribes -- not who are suited to actually do the work.

John Marshall, TPM: Vast natural resource wealth discovered in undeveloped countries has, to put it generously, a very uneven record of producing benefits for the countries as a whole... The unfortunate but very common pattern is that extractable natural resources produce autocratic, often kleptocratic, regimes, ruling by violence, which reliably get the stuff out of ground and into the hands of more developed and wealthier foreign countries... With so much in play right now about the future of the US mission in the country, the timing of the revelation is enough to raise some suspicions in my mind.

Paul Woodward, War in Context: In a culture so deeply molded by what I will call the advertising gestalt, America's most crippling deficit is a pervasive lack of interest in distinguishing between appearance and reality. Military campaigns have been turned into marketing campaigns viewed with the uncritical attention that attends most commercial communication.

Bob Herbert, NYT: The truth is that top American officials do not believe the war can be won but do not know how to end it.
Image source: USGS, 2007