Mineral Exploitation Latest Excuse for U.S. to Stay in Afghanistan

Past time for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan.


The Afghan war is approaching its 17th year with no end in sight. Now The New York Times reports that the Trump administration is looking into a new reason to stay in Afghanistan: the exploitation of the country's mineral resources.

Last month President Donald Trump authorized the Pentagon to increase troop levels in Afghanistan but, as the Times notes, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has not yet acted on that authorization, "perhaps reflecting his recognition that the commander in chief is uncomfortable with it."

The possibility of mining should not comfort Trump. In 2010, U.S. officials estimated the value of Afghanistan's unexploited mineral deposits at $1 trillion. But as the security situation deteriorated significantly, the price of the commodities involved has sunk.

The Afghan government only became open to the possibility of the U.S. exploiting mineral resources after Trump took office. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly talked mining with Trump in one of their first conversations. Ghani supposedly changed his mind because he realized Trump would be "intrigued by the commercial possibilities," as the Times put it.

But the Obama administration was intrigued by those possibilities too. It's far more likely that Ghani changed his mind out of fear that Trump might otherwise pull out of his country.

Ghani's government relies on an international military presence for its continued existence, but such a dependence does nothing to foster his regime's self-sufficiency. Indeed, it lessens the incentive for his government to improve its security forces or otherwise act to strengthen its position. It's no surprise Afghan security and intelligence agencies are failing when they can lean on the U.S. instead.

If this newfound interest in mineral exploitation is a sign that the Afghan government believes the U.S. might actually leave the country, America's best option is to use that momentum to encourage the Afghan government to take its stability and security into its own hands. To that end, Washington should try to negotiate a speedy and complete withdrawal.

Asked last week about a potential troop surge in Afghanistan, Trump said "we'll see" before adding that ISIS was "falling fast." The presence of ISIS in Afghanistan has been one of the most recent justifications for maintaining the U.S. military presence there.

When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as a response to the September 11 terrorist attacks attributed to Al-Qaeda, based at the time in Afghanistan, the country was virtually the only terrorist safe haven in the world. After 16 years of the war on terror, such safe havens have proliferated. Continuing the same policy of endless war will only lead to more of the same.

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  1. If Trump manages to serve two terms, the War in Afghanistan will turn 25 his last year in office, at which point he will definitely pull out because he doesn’t want to touch anything that old and gross.

  2. Which is stupid because it is mainly our military protecting mineral development by Chinese contracts..

    We really suck at this..

    1. Turns out that going to war against a broad philosophical concept is hard.

    2. China then uses it to make iPhones, so that’s not really a problem.

  3. Mineral exploitation by whom? Whoever it is, they can pay for troops to be stationed there.

  4. We were LOSING the war because of Obummer’s strict rules of engagement, but since Trump has promised to take the gloves off and let the generals FIGHT, the US will finally achieve VICTORY.

    1. I doubt we can achieve VICTORY in Afghanistan until we have converted the soil from desert red to the green of Trinitite.

  5. I think that we should have no troops there as much as the next guy but can you really still call it a war? Wouldn’t occupation be a better word?

    {looks at wiki}

    I guess there was 1 KIA this year, hardly war time numbers but I guess as long as kids are getting killed, then it’s a war. Interestingly, the highest number of KIAs were during the Obama administration.

  6. If your going to be there may as well use its resources to help cover the cost. lots of people think that way about Iraq as well

  7. Nice Alt-Text., Ed.

    1. I found it offensive. Ed should’ve had the good sense to rewrite it as the binding of non-specifically gendered offspring.

      Also, he should have more respect for the transgendered persons who, in the service of our country, *really want* to mine in Afghanistan.


      1. I was wondering why anyone would be so eager to join in on the mass murder of people in the third world, and it all makes sense now

        The transgender people really want mineral rights

  8. >>>encourage the Afghan government to take its stability and security into its own hands

    that’s cute. not that we need to do it, but…

  9. We should ask the Brits how to do this whole colony thing.

  10. Of all the mischief that the American establishment has visited upon various nations of the wold, the idea of ‘regime change’ has been one of the worst.

    “We” have learned nothing from the “blowback” from our adventures in countries like Iran and Guatema.

  11. Look, it’s real simple: either we continue to prop up the country-sized clown car that is the Afghan government, or we have to re-invade in 2022 after ISIS-K blows up a mall in Boca Raton.

    You wanna say we shouldn’t’ve invaded? Fine. Go back and convince ‘Murica, circa 9/12/2001. For those of us in the original timeline, it is done- and withdrawing from an invaded country creates a new jihadi haven even more reliably than invading in the first place. See, Iraq.

    Let’s not invade any more Muslim countries. Let’s ALSO not abandon the ones we already did. We took all the toys out of the toy box; it’s rude to leave them for someone else to clean up.

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