"Look! Shiny!" -- The Pentagon's "discovery" of Afghan mineral wealth isn't news. It's a distraction.
Today at 2:15pm
Despite the cooperation (again) of The New York Times, the Pentagon fell flat on its face with its announcement of the "discovery" of $1 trillion in mineral deposits in Afghanistan. The reason: it wasn't news. The U.S. government has been publishing reports about these resources for years. As Steve Hynd of Newshoggers puts it, "this is a zombie story, resurrected yet again for political purposes."
After a terrible series of milestones (the thousandth U.S. death of the war, the trillionth dollar spent on Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Afghanistan becoming the longest war in U.S. history), the Pentagon apparently wanted to start this week off with a totally awesome story about Afghanistan.
Talk about a failure.
The administration's counterinsurgency strategy is failing miserably in Afghanistan, and shouting, "Look! Shiny!" doesn't change a thing.
Below are excerpts of two excellent posts exposing this latest P.R. attempt to salvage failing public support for the Afghanistan war.
Afghanistan's Mineral Riches: A Conveniently Timed Zombie Story
...[T]his is a zombie story, resurrected yet again for political purposes.
Afghanistan's mineral riches were well known to the Soviets in 1985 and a US government Country Study in 2002 went into detail about their knowledge. By 2005 the US Geological Service was being publicly exuberant in its assessment of Afghanistan's mineral resources (PDF). It published other public reports about the "Significant Potential for Undiscovered Resources in Afghanistan" in 2007, one of which focussed on non-fuel minerals. In 2008, it was Afghan reserves of oil and gas that was making the news and in 2009, as Reuters was reporting on Afghanistan's vast mineral wealth and McLatchy was noting China's interest, rights to the vast iron deposits were already up for tender.
From Wired's Danger Room blog:
No, The U.S. Didn’t Just ‘Discover’ a $1T Afghan Motherlode
Despite what you may read this morning, the U.S. military did not just “discover” a trillion dollars’ worth of precious minerals in Afghanistan.
...And the timing of the “discovery” seems just a little too convenient. As Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy notes, the Obama administration is struggling to combat the perception that the Afghan campaign has “made little discernible progress,” despite thousands of additional troops and billions of extra dollars.
...It’ll take years, and a ton of capital investment, before Afghanistan’s deposits can even be mined. And when they can, it’s anybody’s guess who’ll actually be profiting. Hounshell sums up the mess nicely:
Meanwhile, the drive for Kandahar looks to be stalled in the face of questionable local support for Karzai’s government, the Taliban is killing local authorities left and right, and the corruption situation has apparently gotten so bad that the U.S. intelligence community is now keeping tabs on which Afghan officials are stealing what.