Afghanistan’s Mineral Resources Fueling War and Insurgency -by Ahmad Shah Katawazai (Foreign Policy Journal – May 29, 2018)

Afghanistan’s rich mineral resources could prove to be the best substitutes for foreign aid and could decrease the country’s dependence on donor countries and foreign support. These resources, if properly managed, provide an opportunity for Afghanistan to write its own story of economic success.

With an estimated value of between one to three trillion dollars,[1] Afghanistan’s mineral resources have long held intriguing potential. But they also threaten to fuel conflict. In a country already plagued by rampant corruption, active insurgency, and lack of infrastructure and institutions, Afghanistan’s minerals represent yet another possible source of instability.

Through illegal mining, millions of dollars are funneled into the pockets of armed groups, insurgents, and strongmen, while only a tiny fraction of the wealth generated from these projects have benefitted the Afghan people.[2]

In addition to offering geostrategic leverage, Afghanistan’s lucrative mineral resources could serve as a major justification for the United States to remain in Afghanistan. Mining could boost the Afghan economy while profiting U.S. companies. Most notably, it could provide American firms access to crucial rare earth minerals, production for many of which has been dominated by China.

However, with the insurgents’ increasing influence and illegal mineral exploitation on the rise, Afghanistan’s minerals represent not only a lost opportunity, but a threat to the national security of the country.

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