Could Afghanistan become “the Saudi Arabia of Lithium”?

Well, that’s what the Pentagon is saying. A United States mineral surveyor has released a study that says close to 1 trillion dollars worth of minerals have been discovered in Afghanistan. While the minerals vary in value the most important discovery was a large reserve of Lithium which is used in cell phones and computers. These reserves are also key to batteries in the developing industry of electric cars.

What does a trillion dollars in resources mean to a country just smaller than Texas whose GDP is currently 15 billion dollars? It’s hard to say but Pentagon officials hope this will lead to an independent Afghanistan, free from foreign aid. These changes are not expected to happen overnight. In fact, it will be a long process due to the lack of a strong infrastructure required to extract these minerals. It does however provide hope for the Afghan people: Mining will create jobs and hopefully stabilize both the economy and the political climate. Afghanistan’s struggle with the Taliban could be positively affected by the minerals “since economic development is a key to success in counter insurgency warfare.” This discovery could eventually make Afghanistan a major player in the modern world of electronics. Foreign investments made to extract these minerals could eventually stabilize Afghanistan enough to allow the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan without leaving the country in a state of chaos as some analysts fear.

While the new resources represent new opportunities there are also some complex challenges. Afghan provinces now have more to lose in treaty processes, so peace negotiations just got much more potentially complicated. These added resources could lead to further disputes among tribal leaders in Afghanistan and further conflict. This report of new resources seems to be good news at a time when things in Afghanistan are worsening. A columnist at the Huffington Post says, “[Right now, Afghanistan] isn’t a pretty picture. But it’s not one that Obama or the Pentagon or even trillions and trillions in rare minerals will be able to prettify. If the latest reports are anything to go by, America is chasing fool’s gold in Afghanistan.”

For our sake as well as Afghanistan’s, let’s hope that this discovery leads to peace and prosperity.

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