‘Discovery’ of Afghan riches a pro-war PR scam?

By
Daniel Tencer

Monday, June
14th, 2010 — 7:57 pm

A
New York Times report announcing the US has found $1
trillion-worth of mineral deposits in Afghanistan has some observers
wondering if the news is part of a public-relations effort to bolster
support for the Afghanistan war as the mission’s death toll continues to
climb.

An article
in Sunday’s New York Times
announces that "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."

The
article cites an "internal Pentagon memo" as saying Afghanistan could
become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium" — the mineral used in the
production of rechargeable batteries, such as those found in cell phones
and laptops. It cites "a small team of Pentagon officials and American
geologists" as having made the discovery.

While the dollar
estimate — $1 trillion — may be new, it’s hardly news that Afghanistan
sits on rich mineral deposits. In a 2007 press release,
the US Geological Survey announced that Afghanistan possesses
"significant amounts of undiscovered non-fuel mineral resources." And,
as Marc
Ambinder reports
on his Atlantic blog, the Soviet Union
was aware of Afghanistan’s mineral potential as early as 1985.

“The
‘discovery’ of Afghanistan’s minerals will sound pretty silly to old
timers,” a "retired former senior US official" tells Politico’s
Laura Rosen
. “When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970’s the
[US government], the Russians, the World Bank, the UN and others were
all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposits. Cheap
ways of moving the ore to ocean ports has always been the limiting
factor.”

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