Next Step: Exploit Afghanistan’s Natural Resources

In my piece today on the gradual drawdown of NATO troops in Afghanistan, I provided plenty of evidence supporting the notion that we are not getting out of Afghanistan in 2014, as the Obama administration claims. By the end of next year, 40,000 will have been withdrawn, from the approximately 140,000 there now.

I’ve written before about how actual military and defense officials repeatedly explain that 2014 will not be the end of the occupation. As just one example, in a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations from under secretary of defense for policy at the Department of Defense Michèle Flournoy, she explained that “2014 is not a withdrawal date—it’s an inflection point.” And now Afghan President Hamid Karzai has tacitly approved a robust strategic agreement and U.S. military presence through 2024 at his council of over 2,000 tribal elders.

But if we needed more evidence that 2014 is merely a political stamp (I think the zero should have a peace sign in it), as opposed to an actual date for the end of the military occupation, I think training Afghan geoscientists to collect, process, and exploit valuable “mineral resources” and “rare earth elements” in Afghanistan is plenty enough to top it off.

The Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, announced today it will provide training and equipment specific to airborne geophysical exploration to the Afghan Geological Survey.  This initiative is part of the U.S. Government’s continuing efforts to help the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan identify and develop its vast deposits of mineral resources in a transparent and responsible fashion.

A key component of the USGS’ new effort is to train Afghan geoscientists in collecting, processing and interpreting high-resolution geophysical data themselves.  Utilizing airborne technology is essential to obtaining reliable, detailed information on mineral and rare earth element deposits.

…The TFBSO has already worked extensively with USGS to develop an ongoing survey of mineral resources and rare earth elements in Afghanistan, as well as creating an online and central repository for that data in Kabul.  The new training is intended to augment and expand these earlier efforts.  This earlier work identified at least $1 trillion in mineral resources, fossil fuels, and rare earth elements within Afghanistan, according to Pentagon estimates.

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