The Taliban, at Least, Are Striking Gold in Afghanistan – by Lynne O’Donnell and Mirwais Khan (Foreign Policy – September 22, 2020)

For decades, Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth has been touted as the country’s trillion-dollar El Dorado. But while the Afghan government has never been able to monetize mountains of copper, iron ore, gold, and gemstones, the Taliban have—and are ramping up their mining operations as just-started peace talks aim to shape the future of a postwar Afghanistan.

In recent years, the Taliban have deliberately moved to secure control over regions of Afghanistan rich in mineral deposits, from lapis lazuli mines in northern Badakhshan to gold, lead, and zinc in Helmand and vast talc and marble deposits in southern Nangarhar.

The Taliban, who already control most of the country’s mineral wealth, are banking on further developing the sector to make it the bedrock of the country’s postwar economy—or theirs, at least.

“Mining is one of the leading factors in the economic development of Afghanistan,” said Yaqoob Shah, the director of the leasing department of the Taliban’s shadow ministry of mines.

He said the group is currently earning about $400 million a year from mining—a figure confirmed by independent researchers and which dwarfs Afghan government income from mining.

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