Despite Risks, Trump Administration Moves Forward With Afghanistan Mining Plan – by Elias Groll (Foreign Policy – August 29, 2017)

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the mining industry is key to Kabul’s future.

The United States has already spent almost half a billion dollars on Afghanistan’s mining industry with little to show, but the Trump administration still appears determined to move forward with plans to tap the country’s buried wealth.

Describing the country’s mineral deposits as potentially transformative for a country its size, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Foreign Policy that he has delivered a plan to President Donald Trump to get the Afghan economy back on its feet. “The whole idea of it is to try to figure out how to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient country that can provide jobs for its people and its own budget,” Ross said in an interview.

Trump, who last week announced that he would be sending more troops to Afghanistan, believes the country’s estimated $1 trillion in mineral resources can be used to repay the United States for what it has spent there. “As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us,” Trump said in an Aug. 21 speech at Fort Myer in Virginia.

In fact, Afghanistan doesn’t have a prime minister, but that wasn’t even the most concerning issue for veteran Afghanistan watchers.

Over the course of nearly 16 years of war, the United States has poured some half a billion dollars into the country’s mining industry with little to show for it. And the reasons for the previous projects’ failures — corruption, lack of infrastructure, the incompetence of the Afghan government, and a piecemeal American development strategy — all remain.

That doesn’t faze the commerce secretary or his boss in the White House, who was sold on the mining idea after meetings with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the CEO of an American metals company.

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