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View Diary: Afghanistan, let's just get the hell out (57 comments)

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  •  The US will not leave Afghanistan (8+ / 0-)

    Remaining there is part of Obama's "Pivot to Asia".  Afghanistan has one trillion dollars worth of rare earths that have become strategically important to the US. In fact, one could argue that they are of even greater importance than oil has ever been in the past.

    China currently has control of over 97% of these materials. Technology from cell phones, renewable energy, electric vehicles to the most advanced military weaponry absolutely require these materials.

    Rare Earth Elements Power the World, and China Controls Them All

    The future of REE production is not entirely clear, but the implications of its geopolitical and economic value are. The expanding market that uses REEs for domestic applications is sure to put strain on these minerals' slowing production but also ensure its relevance in modern technologies. The use of REEs in military hardware translates into what some deem as a national security issue, a claim made stronger in light of the Chinese government using its monopoly as leverage against its neighbors. The geopolitical implications become even more striking when coupled with the increasing number of cyberattacks and the Obama administration’s so-called “Asia pivot” in the Pacific. As REEs play a larger role on the world stage, it will be increasingly important to watch for their effects on the global and regional level.

    Afghanistan sits on $1 trillion worth of mineral deposits. Is this a game changer?

    America’s longest war (or second-longest for sure) in history is expected to end in 2014 once with the retreat of US forces from Afghanistan. Currently members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan are heading for the exits, leaving the US alone in securing the country. That’s not all they leave behind, though. They also leave a war shattered and barren Afghanistan,and  at they same time they leave a country whose resources might skyrocket the country into potential peace and prosperity in a foreseeable future – if, and that’s a really big IF, Afghanistan can settle many of its internal struggles (corruption, civil war, Taliban uprisings, education etc.) and fend off foreign corporate interests.

    Afghanistan has always been regarded has a very mineral-rich country, however recent surveys reveal that the country is actually home to even more resources than previously thought. For instance, copper, cobalt, iron, barite, sulfur, lead, silver, zinc, niobium abound in the country and, most importantly, some 1.4 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REEs) are believed to be lie beneath Afghan soil. U.S. agencies estimate Afghanistan’s mineral deposits to be worth upwards of $1 trillion and in fact, a classified Pentagon memo called Afghanistan the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” It’s worth mentioning though that lithium isn’t technically a rare earth mineral, but it falls more or less in the same class since it’s used for the same purposes as REEs.

    •  I've seen internet discussions about how (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the USA has to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for Chinese companies to mine the various minerals that happen to be there.

      Perhaps that's what you're saying, perhaps it involves an added layer of complexity.

      However, despite the name, "rare earths" aren't all that rare.  There are plenty right here in North America with the primary impediment to their mining being environmental concerns.   To me, forcing all the rare earth pollution issues onto places like China, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mongolia is just plain wrong.  If we want to use these elements for "clean" energy, we really should just suck it up and mine them ourselves.

      •  The US has about 12% of the world's reserves (2+ / 0-)
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        allenjo, corvo

        of the rare earths and China has 50%. In addition, China has been buying up mines globally.

        There are many mines within the US but the problem is not just extracting the ore. The US depends on external sources to refine and manufacture the material into usable products. This is what China has a monopoly on at present due to decades of Chinese government investment into the industry. In order for the US to catch up, it would require a massive amount of government subsidies.

        the USA has to remain in Afghanistan to provide security for Chinese companies to mine the various minerals that happen to be there.

        Perhaps that's what you're saying, perhaps it involves an added layer of complexity.

        You can be sure the US is not in Afghanistan to provide security for Chinese investment although this has been the net effect to date. There has been considerable Indian and other foreign investment which would have been put in danger or stalled if the US pulled out.

        The reasons are more strategic and are directly related to Obama's "Pivot to Asia". The US realizes it must maintain and increase it's presence in the new emerging markets in Central Asia if it doesn't want to be left out and fall too far behind.

        It's all about spreading capitalism and free trade and the geopolitical location of Afghanistan in Central Asia.

        The United States and the New Silk Road

        Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to thank the Jamestown Foundation for organizing this conference and for bringing together such a distinguished group of experts and officials to discuss the future of U.S. relations with Central Asia. Thank you, Glen Howard, for your invitation to participate today. It’s a great pleasure to be here and update you on U.S. efforts to promote regional economic cooperation – or what we have termed the “New Silk Road.”
        We also welcome the efforts of China to develop energy and transportation infrastructure in the region, including the projects announced during President Xi’s recent visit. We see all these efforts as mutually reinforcing and beneficial to the Central Asia countries and Afghanistan. We are realistic. The United States is an important partner for all the countries of the region, and our companies are major players there, particularly in the energy sector. But China, as a neighbor to these countries and as a result of its own dramatic economic growth, is naturally going to be leader there in trade and investment. We want to work with China, Russia – another country with significant economic ties to Central Asia – and other regional countries to support peace, stability, and prosperity in what is the least-economically integrated region in the world today. And we believe that there is plenty of work to go around.

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