Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why the Afghan War?

There has been war in Afghanistan for the last 14 years and a lot has been written about the who, what, where and when, but little to answer the most important question - why? The story that the media promoted continuously after September 11, 2001 was that Afghanistan was just a worthless pile of rocks that had no economic value; therefore, the goal of the war must be to deprive terrorists of a base and, as a bonus, to spread democracy, protect women, and rebuild the country. But in 2010 they began to report on "newly discovered mineral deposits…so big that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world." But the story of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was hardly new.  

Since the 1960s, it was reported by the Minerals Yearbook of the US Geological Survey that Afghanistan is rich in natural gas, copper, iron ore, gold, silver, and precious gems. Afghanistan has chromite that hardens steel. It has barite that is used in oil well "drilling fluid." The 1963 entry on Afghanistan in the Minerals Yearbook says "known natural gas reserves are substantial and have potential significance." The 1982 entry reports about the Hajigak iron ore deposit that "a 1977 independent survey concluded that the deposit was large enough and of a sufficient grade to support a major iron and steel industry." The Minerals Yearbook came in 1992 reported  "The country's rich reserves of natural gas, estimated at 2,000 billion cubic meters..." The Yearbook also reported "copper ore from a reserve estimated at 360 MMT (Million metric tons)" and that "rich reserves of iron ore were estimated at 1,700 MMT." In November 2001 Ishaq Nadiri, a professor of economics at New York University, wrote that Afghanistan "...once exported natural gas to the Soviet Union. It has large reserves of copper and high-grade iron ore." In a December 2001, John F. Shroder, Jr., a professor of geology at the University of Nebraska, said that he had studied the natural resources of Afghanistan for decades and that it had "what may be the world's largest copper deposit and the third-largest deposit of high-grade iron ore, in addition to reserves of gas, oil, coal, precious stones." Professor Shroder said that several American companies had called him "to find out more about the prospects for post-war mining and hydrocarbon acquisition."

 This news might lead a careful reader to question the motives in Afghanistan yet the media consistently reported that Afghanistan had no economic value aside from pistachios, pomegranates, goats, and sheep. On December 13th, the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the vice-president of India met in Turkmenistan where a table with four buttons was set up so each country’s leader could press a button, simultaneously initiating the construction of the TAPI natural gas pipeline. TAPI is the acronym for the four countries involved in the pipeline construction. This event was big news in south Asia and was covered by all the major newspapers in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It should have been big news in the US and the West too, but the media ignored the story.  A US State Department spokesman told the Press Trust of India that "The United States congratulates Turkmenistan and its partners on the recent ground-breaking for the construction of the natural gas pipeline to Afghanistan..." Yet, the US media decided that this was news that US citizens did not need to know. Many peace advocates have suspected from the beginning that this natural gas pipeline is one of the ways that the coalition of the greedy expected to profit from this war. Aside from the TAPI pipeline there are many opportunities for the coalition of greedy corporations to make a killing, so to speak. Selling weapons to both sides, opium smuggling, and overcharging for shoddy construction and useless consulting fees are just a few examples, but stealing minerals may be the driving force that makes the war continue.

As with Iraq, the war in Afghanistan has been an unmitigated disaster in its stated goals: to promote democracy, the rule of the law, human rights. Afghanistan, year after year, has slipped down the Transparency International corruption index until it is now tied for second most corrupt nation on earth. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction shows that over 99% of spending in Afghanistan has gone to military spending or supporting a corrupt government. Less than 1% has gone tor food, clothing, and shelter for some of the poorest people on earth, the Afghans, now suffering through their 38th year of war. What better way to steal the mineral wealth of Afghanistan than to create a weakened government and a starving people? Now if its unstated goals was to feed the greed of Big Corporations, apparently it has been a success.

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