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Jun-21-2010 14:00printcomments

Afghanistan: Is the Mineral Deposit Saga a Reality or a Myth?

Time is the essence for either success or failure in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, so far, the momentum is on the path of failure.

Afghanistan politics
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(SEATTLE) - It is obvious that there is no military solution to the struggle in Afghanistan and therefore a political one could be on the horizon.

That too proved to be failing when the Taliban, supposedly partaking in the recent consultative Loya-Jirgah gathering in an effort to reconcile in Kabul, instead they answered with their barrage of fire attacks and consequently disrupted the council.

So, what else is on the table to justify the war in Afghanistan and keep the government of Hamid Karzai afloat?

Apparently the US military brass and Mr. Karzai had some brain storming to do recently, and they were in approval of introducing another plan by giving the forewarn of vastly untapped mineral deposits in the Hindu-Kush mountains of the Central Asian state, which is now raised from $1 trillion value to $3 trillion in a matter of 36 hours.

Apparently, there are many questions to its legitimacy and whether the mineral deposits are authenticated or hoaxed, but the reality is one would be hard pressed to find a soul in either Afghanistan or the West willing to accept this joint U.S.-Afghan government initiative.


In Afghanistan, myths are the same as fables, legends, folktales, fairy tales, anecdotes or fiction, but sloppy usage in politics and religion has blurred the distinctions in many people’s minds. It is sometimes used pejoratively in reference to its belief of culture or for the belief of the religion to imply that the story is both believable and factual. Hence, with the past history of British colonial deceit, manipulation of the Afghan society and the interferences in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, some Afghans will doubt the sincerity of anything Westerners say – especially anything the West claims will be a “great deal” for Afghanistan.

Not long ago UK’s Defense Secretary Dr. Liam Fox, called Afghanistan, a “broken 13th-century country.” Of course, his view reverberated in the world as Afghanistan is a tribal and medieval society. In fact, Afghanistan by 13th-century was at the heart of the Islamic renaissance, boasting magnificent architecture, art, calligraphy, literature, advances in mathematics and production of poets akin to Jalaluddin Rumi who was born in 1207 in the northern city of Balkh.

That said, in most rural areas in Afghanistan, time is frozen in a centuries antiquated system, technology advances are null, illiteracy is high and societal beliefs are based on conservative Islam. Therefore, in such a society, mythology is very well authentic, which dominates people’s thoughts and daily lives. Moreover, a majority of Afghans are simpleminded, easily manipulated into mythical beliefs. Thus, past colonial rulings akin to Britain and religious leaders made their versions of mythical strides to gain their foothold in Afghanistan, overthrowing past rulers and controlling public will.

King Amanullah and Queen Soraya

The progressive late Afghan King Amanullah who received his country’s independence in 1919, which was 28 years ahead of colonial India’s independence, miscalculated the ability of the British to topple his government using traditionalists and mullahs against him. In his visit to India the young King appeared to be very enthusiastic about liberating Muslim countries from the rule of colonial power. He was greeted as a hero in India and the Indian freedom fighters asked him to give a fetwa announcing that he be the King of India too. King Amanullah, however, did not issue a fetwa but his appearance in India gave ultimatum to the British that India would be next in line to become free of the colonial power, if Amanullah had been left in power.

Thus, a conspiracy against Amanullah was started by the British using the mullahs and traditionalists; the British produced false shocking photographs of Queen Soraya, wife of Amanullah, half naked with foreign men. Seeing the photographs, religious leaders believed Amanullah could not be a true Muslim and therefore did not deserve to be King. Consequently, this was a factor in the collapse of his reign. But now, Afghans are blaming Britain for this plot, and are regretful for losing such an iconic figure as their leader.

There are many tales of such Afghan public manipulations in the past; one short narrative was when a mullah fools the public by converting water into milk and the audience knelt down to comply with the man of religion for his astounding power. Of course, this was in the early days of invention of powdered milk in 1832.

The most obvious case and a Hollywood picture plot was the (1888) true story of “The Man Who Would Be King” written by Rudyard Kipling and played by Sean Connery and Michael Caine. When two colonial British soldiers crossed the border from India they became kings of a remote area in Afghanistan called Kafiristan—now Nuristan—and were treated as Gods by the locals and ultimately lost everything because of their deceit.


Finally after decades of war, some good news about Afghanistan: beneath the landmines, Afghanistan is sitting on a goldmine.

This sounds rather astonishing - as if Afghanistan has hit the jackpot and will be a leader in the global economy – but the $1 trillion figure is highly misleading. It is a theoretical number and may have little relation to the value of resources that could actually be exploited. Furthermore, it will be of little benefit to Afghanistan if its $1 trillion of resources would cost $2 trillion or more to dig up. So, to ensure the opportunity at least appeared to be well worth the investment, they increased the number to $3 trillion, obviously failing to do their homework the first time. This suspiciously round number appears to be based on geological surveys made decades ago as well as recent on the ground research. How thorough that could have been is an open debate, given that it takes the world’s best miners about a decade to explore a new area.

Even if there were $3 trillion of mineral resources in Afghanistan, and even if those resources were economically feasible, it would be years before a large Western mining establishment would go anywhere near the country. They have no intention of moving into Afghanistan because the risk is far greater than the reward. In addition, the investment would be too risky where the Afghan government does not control all the territory and contract law is far from solid.

China is likely the only country that will show interest in the aforesaid mineral mines, however they failed to make headway on the Kajaki hydroelectric dam project in Helmand province because of the lack of security in the area.


In fact, there are hypothesis and vagueness to this recent joint perception announced by the US and Afghan governments.

Is it time to change course and divert attention from the failed operation in Marjah, failed reconciliation Jirga, failed opium eradication, stalled Kandahar operation, Mr. Karzai’s tantrums, Afghan government corruption, thriving drug trafficking, warlordism, Kandahar’s power brokers, fraudulent presidential election, heightened insurgency, Pakistan’s uncooperative effort to contain the Taliban in its soil, regional powers proxy wars and so forth?

Some in the West view that, despite the mining industry’s skepticism, that massive amounts of mineral wealth could be easily extracted from the country’s rugged mountains and remote regions. In addition, they believe this ruse could reverse growing public sentiment that the war is not worth the cost.

Similarly, some Afghans view that the era of past colonial manipulation of Afghan society is once again repeating itself. If so, then the public sentiment will be far more damning than now.

In any event, time is the essence for either success or failure in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, so far, the momentum is on the path of failure.


Born in an Afghan political family belonging to the Mohamadzai clan of the Pashtun Durani confederacy, Khalil's father, uncles, and cousins were all career diplomats in the Afghan government. His father's diplomatic career led to time in Moscow, Pakistan, London and Indonesia. Throughout all this time, since the 1960’s, Khalil grew to be exposed in Afghan politics and foreign policy. During the past 35 years he has been closely following the dreadful situation in Afghanistan. His years of self- contemplation of complex Afghan political strife and also his recognized tribal roots gave him the upper edge to understand the exact symptoms of the grim situation in Afghanistan.

In addition to his role as a contributor, Khalil is a guest columnist for Seattle Times, McClatchy News Tribune, Laguna Journal and a staff writer for Veterans Today. He is the cofounder of NWSC Inc. (New World Strategies Coalition Inc.) a center for Integrative-Studies and a center for Integrative-Action that consists of 24- nonmilitary solution for Afghanistan. You can write to Nouri Khalil at this address:

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Anonymous June 21, 2010 5:37 pm (Pacific time)

the resources were known about in the 1970's..this is propaganda to keep the war going. please do what you can to stop the military industrial complex/israel from bombing Iran on the same lies and propaganda that the government and MSM lied about to invade Iraq. Iran has done nothing, they abide by the rules, and have not started war with any country in 200 years.. this crud needs to stop. And you frigin obama lovers who hated bush for the wars, need to keep the same hate..I dont understand you people, its was bad when bush did it, but its ok when obama does it..yeesh. Please explain this to me????? And now Petraeus says we will be..ah never mind..lets just inject all the heroin the government is bringing to the U.S. from afghanistan..i hear its cheap and good quality..dear lord.

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