For ten years the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has been dropping off bags of money for Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who is grateful for the monthly cash deliveries. The revelation sparked a protest from Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who told the New York Times “I thought we were trying to clean up waste, fraud and abuse in Afghanistan. We have no credibility on this issue when we’re complicit ourselves. I’m sure it was more than a few hundred dollars.”
It was actually tens of millions of dollars and “used to pay off warlords, lawmakers and others whose support the Afghan leader depends upon.” The record of this “leader”suggests the money is not well spent.
Hamid Karzai is “one of the most unreliable allies we’ve ever had,” notes Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, author of Obama’s Wars. “Karzai is a diagnosed manic depressive, somebody who has mood swings. Sometimes it’s controlled, sometimes it’s not. If you just look at what he has said in public and on the record, you know, one moment he’s totally embracing us, the next moment he’s denouncing the United States.”
Karzai does not command loyalty and has been unable to prevent insider attacks by Afghan government forces against American troops. Two years ago Col. Ahmed Gul killed eight U.S. airmen and one civilian adviser. Last year Afghan soldiers and police officers killed 62 NATO soldiers and the Taliban now threatens a surge in such insider attacks. More U.S. dollars to Hamid Karzai will not prevent such attacks and only contribute to waste, fraud and abuse in Afghanistan.
The CIA, meanwhile, came across rather well in the film Zero Dark Thirty, tracking down terrorist impresario Osama bin Laden. If other CIA heroism remains unexposed, so doubtless do other fiascoes like Hamid Karzai’s monthly payment plan, funded by embattled U.S. taxpayers.
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Last Friday, Colonel Gian Gentile, an award-winning historian, associate professor of history, and director of the military history program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, spoke at the Cato Institute about the misapplication of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan for the purpose of destroying al Qaeda. In a new Cato video, conducted with Cato multimedia director Caleb Brown, Colonel Gentile elaborates on America’s narrow aim of defeating al Qaeda. He also explains how that aim can be pursued without a costly, multi-decade, troop-heavy campaign, and puts the application of counterinsurgency doctrine in a historical context.
On a slightly different note, mainly for those readers concerned about leaving the Taliban unmolested, the United States and its coalition allies have come to accept the region’s geopolitical landscape, in which it seems there is no way to avoid the Taliban and other anti-Afghan government forces becoming part of some future political order. Consider this statement by Philip Mudd, the former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and the FBI’s National Security Branch: “On September 12, 2001, can you imagine asking the question: Is the Taliban really a threat? Today, 12 years later, I’d say, well clearly it’s not a threat!”
Food for thought. Check out the video below.
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Recent news reports have missed a major item on Afghanistan. Last week, the Independent reported on an internal study from the British government’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). The study, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, examines the “extraordinary number of similar factors that surround both the Soviet and Nato campaigns in Afghanistan.”
The study finds that despite their differences:
Both interventions have been portrayed as foreign invasions attempting to support a corrupt and unpopular central government against a local insurgent movement which has popular support, strong religious motivation and safe havens abroad. In addition, the country will again be left with a severely damaged and very weak economic base, heavily dependent upon external aid.
It goes on:
The highest-level parallel is that both campaigns were conceived with the aim of imposing an ideology foreign to the Afghan people: the Soviets hoped to establish a Communist state while Nato wished to build a democracy,” it says. “Equally striking is that both abandoned their central aim once they realised that the war was unwinnable in military terms and that support of the population was essential. [Emphasis added.]
In a questionable comment that one would expect a U.S. official to utter, the British government website states “We are in Afghanistan to protect our own national security by helping the Afghans take control of theirs.” The internal study, of course, comes to a contrary conclusion: “The military parallels are equally striking; the 40th Army [of the Soviet Union] was unable decisively to defeat the mujahedin while facing no existential threat itself, a situation that precisely echoes the predicament of Isaf [the Nato-led security mission].”
To learn more about the international community’s inability to rescue Afghanistan—and why the international community made that grandiloquent pledge in the first place—register for the Cato Institute policy forum on Friday, April 5th , “The war in Afghanistan: What Went Wrong?” I will host Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the RAND Corporation’s Ambassador James Dobbins, and West Point Professor and COIN critic Colonel Gian Gentile to discuss America’s longest war.
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As President Hamid Karzai visits Washington this week, a flood of recent news reports suggest that the White House is considering a zero option that would leave no U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan after 2014. Such news is bittersweet.
It appears that top officials have come to realize that America can protect its vital interests without an indefinite residual troop presence. That said, these officials implicitly acknowledge that conflating the fight against terror groups with the creation of viable central governments has failed. America can and should destroy, incapacitate, and punish those that do it harm; but the American military and civilian establishments have had repeated difficulty repairing failed states emerging from civil conflict.
After 10 years and counting, the fragile Afghan government still lacks a central pillar of nation-state sovereignty: monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Reports suggest that outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta favors leaving 9,000 U.S. troops behind to combat militants and to train the 350,000-large Afghan Army and police. But according to Washington’s own metric, indigenous security forces, which the U.S. has spent $39 billion to train and equip, have to be effective enough to operate independent of foreign assistance. But reports have found that some coalition forces largely see the Afghan National Army (ANA) as unmotivated, highly dependent, and making little to no progress.
Leaving trainers also assumes that Afghan government forces are effective in gaining the Afghan population’s support. But a Pentagon report from last year found little evidence of that. Afghan government corruption remains rampant and continues to bolster insurgent messaging. Sadly, more resources are unlikely to change the fact that the coalition has no overarching or coherent geopolitical framework to connect military gains with a broader political process that would resolve what drives the insurgency. Absent that, rural Afghans in insular pockets of the country will continue to turn to the Taliban alternative.
A plan to end America’s limited presence is a debate we must have. Committing manpower with no decisive end attaches no conditionality on the performance of either Afghan elites or security forces while leaving U.S. troops exposed to insurgent attack. The lesson to draw from the Afghan mission is not to plunge into a country and dwell for ten years, but to avoid similar futile missions in the future.
In today’s Cato Daily Podcast, I discuss the future of Afghanistan and why it is time once again to rethink our mission:
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Prince Harry kills Taliban commander in Afghanistan
LONDON: Prince Harry who is an RAF helicopter pilot deployed in Afghanistan, has killed a Taliban leader in an airstrike, notching up his first ‘kill’, British media reported today.
The 27-year-old, the third in line to the British throne, was called in to provide air support to troops tracking a commander-level Taliban chief and hit the target with a 100 lb Hellfire missile fired from an Apache helicopter.
It is the first time the prince has been involved in a fatal airstrike against a Taliban commander, a report in The Sun said.
According to the Daily Mail, the attack is said to have happened in late October, shortly after the prince returned to Afghanistan for his second deployment as gunship co-pilot.
A defence insider said, "We were on patrol and the Apache helicopters were called in. We heard this posh voice come over the radio and knew it was Big H. They were tracking a Taliban leader – he was commander-level."
Captain Harry Wales – as he is known in the Army – is a co-pilot gunner in the Apache unit which has the highest ‘kill rate’ in the war.
As the co-pilot gunner, Harry commands missions, fires the weapons, navigates and sometimes take over the controls.
The two-crew gunship – nicknamed the ‘flying tank’ – is used by UK forces in Afghanistan to smash the Taliban, gather intelligence and provide support for soldiers on the ground.
Harry learned to fly Apache helicopters during an 18-month training course in February.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said, "We do not comment on an individual’s deployment in Afghanistan."
Harry was keen to return to Afghanistan after his first tour of duty was cut short in 2008.
The prince had been secretly deployed with the Household Cavalry as a forward air controller directing bombing strikes against insurgents for ten weeks.
His time there was cut short when news of his presence was leaked on foreign websites and he was brought back to Britain.
However, Harry was so determined to do another tour of duty that he retrained as an Apache pilot in the hope it would increase his chances of being redeployed.
The prince’s current tour of duty in Afghanistan is for four months and in his words, the Apache attack helicopter is simply ‘awesome’.
Designed to hunt and destroy tanks, the fearsome Apache is capable of flying at 205 mph and boasts a mix of weapons including a wing-mounted aerial rocket, Hellfire laser-guided missiles and a 30 mm chain gun.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:53 pm
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By Malou Innocent
In autumn 2001, America’s initial purpose in Afghanistan—which made perfect sense—was to destroy or incapacitate al Qaeda and punish the Taliban government that hosted it. This was accomplished 11 years ago. Today, the purpose of the U.S. mission is ill-defined, but clearly involves nation building. What the coalition desperately needs is an achievable, realistic endgame, not an indefinite timeline that commits thousands of U.S. troops to Afghanistan until or beyond 2024.
A common argument is that America and its allies must create an effective Afghan state that can rule the country and prevent the return of the Taliban and, by extension, al Qaeda. Aside from the fact that al Qaeda can exist anywhere, from Hamburg to Los Angeles, it’s not at all clear that the coalition can either eradicate the Taliban or come close to creating an effective Afghan state.
As a Department of Defense Report declared earlier this year, “The Taliban-led insurgency remains adaptive and determined with a significant regenerative capacity, and retains the capability to emplace substantial numbers of [improvised explosive devices] and conduct isolated high-profile attacks that disproportionately field a sense of insecurity.”
Arguments that the coalition must eradicate the Taliban lose sight of what the term “insurgency” actually means. Guerillas typically fight when the opportunity is ripe. They can melt easily into a population, making it difficult for conventional troops to distinguish friend from foe. Combined with the Afghan insurgency’s ability to retreat to sanctuaries in Pakistan, coalition gains can be quickly undone by such systemic factors that make insurgents resilient. Additionally, reporters Dexter Filkins and Kelly Vlahos provide excellent analyses that draw out the ethnic divisions and political factionalism posed by Afghan warlords, many of whom are regrouping and could potentially touch off a civil war in the years ahead.
As for the common contention that America must stay until Afghans can police and govern themselves, the current state of Afghan institutions ensure that it would take a decade or more before coalition forces could withdraw, with little promise of success.
A detailed report released last year by the Commission on Wartime Contracting found that the U.S. government contracted for dozens of clinics, barracks, hospitals, and other facilities that exceed Afghan funding capabilities. For instance, the $82 million Afghan Defense University will cost $40 million a year to operate, which is well beyond the Afghan government’s financial capacity to sustain, according to DoD officials. Long-term operations, maintenance, and sustainment costs for the Afghan National Security Forces could continue through 2025. Similar findings were uncovered by auditors at the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The expectation is that the United States will maintain a presence of some 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan after 2014, while the World Bank estimates that Afghanistan will need $3.9 billion a year through 2024 for economic development. Ironically, when foreign policy planners in Washington make clear that they never intend to abandon Afghanistan, it’s their ambition to create a centralized state that will perpetuate that country’s dependency on foreigners.
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By Christopher Preble
I recently finished reading Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan. The entire book is terrific. I highly recommend it. But one chapter in particular—Chapter 7, “Deadwood”—spoke to some of the things that my colleagues and I have written over the years concerning America’s nation-building problems.
Most Americans have by now moved on from the war in Afghanistan (even though the U.S. military has not) and are focused on, in President Obama’s words, “nation building here at home.” But we still haven’t closed the book on the theories of nation building that arose after 9/11, including the belief that the United States needs to repair failed states, or rescue failing ones, lest terrorists from these states travel thousands of miles to attack Americans. Last month, for example, Mitt Romney’s senior foreign policy adviser Richard Williamson praised Bill Clinton’s nation-building adventures in Bosnia and Kosovo. Williamson told NPR’s Audie Cornish that the U.S. government must “help in reconciliation, reconstruction, helping institutions of law and order, security be built” after authoritarian regimes collapse. From the belief that we must repair failed states flows logically the belief that we can.
These beliefs are, in fact, myths. Cato has published many different papers, articles, and book chapters challenging the claim that fighting terrorism, or preserving U.S. security generally, requires us to engage in nation building abroad. We have been equally emphatic on the point that our efforts are likely to fail, no matter how well intentioned. Little America provides additional evidence to support that argument, although I doubt that was Chandrasekaran’s object.
Take, for example, the case of Summer Coish, the striking and extraordinarily motivated woman who wanted to go to Afghanistan so badly that she appealed directly to Richard Holbrooke. She got her wish—eventually. Despite the fact that the president’s designated point person on Afghanistan and Pakistan had marked her for the fast track, it took 14 months before she was cleared to travel to there.
Once she arrived, Coish’s dream of helping the Afghans emerge from decades of war and desperate poverty crashed against the reality of a soul-crushing bureaucracy. Security regulations made it nearly impossible for Coish and other civilians to regularly interact with Afghans, and few embassy staffers exhibited any desire to do so. “It’s rare that you ever hear someone say they’re here because they want to help the Afghans,” Coish told Chandrasekaran after she had been there a few months. Instead, Chandrasekaran observes, “everyone seemed bent on departure.”
The work itself was painfully dull. Coish concluded that most of it could have been accomplished in Washington, at far less cost to the taxpayers. The reason for the costly in-country presence? The need to count them as part of the vaunted “civilian surge.”
Coish and a handful of other dedicated civilians that Chandrasekaran writes about—including Kael Weston, an experienced political adviser to Marine General Larry Nicholson, and Carter Malkasian, the State Department’s representative in Helmand’s Garmser district—could not make up for the lack of ability (or desire) on the part of many other civilians (i.e. the deadwood). “It seems our best and brightest have burned out long ago and we’re getting the straphangers these days,” Marc Chretien, a senior State Department official in Helmand province, wrote to the embassy. “Or, as one wag put it, ‘they’re just along for the chow.’ No need to go into details here—let’s just say that there’s enough deadwood here that it’s becoming a fire hazard.”
At times, Chandrasekaran’s assessment of the civilian surge exhibits an oddly optimistic tone. I say “odd” because this is the same person who brilliantly documented the dysfunction of the Bush administration’s nation-building fiasco in Iraq (in Imperial Life in the Emerald City), but who can’t bring himself to say that Obama’s mission in Afghanistan couldn’t possibly succeed. Despite everything that he has seen, Chandrasekaran often reflects a belief that it all could have worked out (or that it still might) were it not for the “lack of initiative and creativity in Washington.”
Instead of scouring the United States for top talent to fill the crucial, well-paying jobs that were a key element of Obama’s national security agenda, those responsible for hiring first turned to State Department and USAID officers in other parts of the world. But the best of them had already served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Many of those who signed up were too new to have done a tour in a war zone or too lackluster to have better career options.
Pray-tell, where would the government have found such people? Or, more precisely, how would the government convince those already gainfully employed to set aside their careers, homes, and families to embark upon an Afghan adventure? What additional incentives—or threats—might have sufficed to mobilize the vast army of talented agronomists, lawyers, biologists, teachers, doctors, civil engineers, etc. who were not already motivated (as Coish, Weston and Malkasian were)?
Several years ago, I co-authored with Ben Friedman and Harvey Sapolsky a paper on the lessons of Iraq. Our research was informed by Chandrasekaran’s narrative from the Iraqi Green Zone, and a number of other books on the Bush administration’s signature foreign policy initiative. Here is what we said (the prose in this case is almost certainly Friedman’s; I’m not this clever) about the American people’s disinclination to embark on nation-building missions abroad.
A concerted effort to improve our collective nation-building skills would require “a foreign policy at odds with our national character.”
Reading through the proposals for rapidly deployable bureaucrats to help run failing states, one usually searches in vain for the pages where the author justifies the creation of an empire and a colonial service to run it. Whatever else changed after September 11, [Americans]…are ill-suited for stabilizing disorderly states and achieving success in protracted foreign wars.
The State Department’s budget, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we explained, “is tiny because its aim is to relate to foreign nations, not to run them.”
National security organizations are formed by decades of budgets and decisions. Their organizational politics…reflect…lasting national interests, namely a disinclination to subjugate foreign peoples and lose unnecessary wars….Americans have historically looked askance at the small wars European powers fought to maintain their imperial holdings, viewing those actions as illiberal and unjust. Misadventures like Vietnam are the exceptions that make the rule. It is no accident that U.S. national security organizations are not designed for occupation duties. When it comes to nation building, brokering civil and ethnic conflict, and waging counterinsurgency, we are our own worst enemy, and that is a sign of our lingering common sense.
To repeat, Little America is a first-class read, and I hope that the book receives the attention it deserves. The anecdotes about Coish, Weston, and Malkasian, as well as countless stories about brave soldiers and Marines trying their best every day to make Afghanistan a better place, are heartwarming. We honor their service, and we should find other avenues for these people to perform their work, chiefly through NGOs, unencumbered by the massive federal bureaucracy.
But good intentions cannot distract us from the bleak reality: building a functioning nation-state in Afghanistan would require hundreds of thousands of equally dedicated civilians, to go along with a massive troop presence to protect them, tens of billions of dollars every year, and a commitment to remain in country for decades.
We aren’t going to do that. We should stop pretending that we will.
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By Malou Innocent
As Afghan forces continue to turn their guns on their U.S. partners, so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, the coalition’s patience has reached a breaking point. On Sunday, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said insider attacks have become a “very serious threat” to the mission. On Tuesday, NATO issued orders to curb joint training operations on front-line missions temporarily.
With the coalition’s managed transition running into serious problems, it is necessary to question whether Obama’s surge of over 30,000 troops is closer to achieving a core objective: pressuring the Taliban to accept the conditions for reconciliation. I addressed that issue in an article published this week on GlobalPost.com:
The Taliban has always been amorphous and fragmented. But paradoxically, aspects of the surge may have both weakened the movement’s operational leadership and breathed new life into its grassroots fighters.
In their chilling assessment of the conflict, Kandahar-based researchers Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn conclude in An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban-Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, that the coalition’s kill and capture campaign against mid-level commanders has weakened the leadership’s grip on the chain of command. Some of these higher-ups, however, were more open to peace talks. Younger insurgents opposed to a political settlement are now moving into leadership positions and are increasingly influenced by Al Qaeda’s worldview.
Given the complex nature of Afghan society and politics, forging a power-sharing deal between the insurgency and the Afghan government composed of its enemies was always going to be difficult. But if, as reports suggest, a generation of neo-Taliban are refusing to reconcile, and Taliban higher-ups who are less opposed to peace are having the rug ripped out from under them, then something about the surge went terribly wrong.
In addition, the surge brought a massive uptick from US forces in misdirected firepower, kicked in doors, and controversial incidents of perceived cultural insensitivity, all of which sowed discontent among the population and affirmed the worst insurgent propaganda. The kill and capture campaign in particular was never popular among Afghans.
In other parts of the article, I further address how the makeup of the insurgency is likely to result in less of a chance for reconciliation. I hope I’m wrong. You can read the rest of my article here.
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The Taliban, backed by Pakistan, are set to retake control of Afghanistan after Nato-led forces withdraw from the country, according to reports citing a classifed assessment by US forces.
The Times described the report as secret and "highly classified", saying it was put together last month by the US military at Bagram air base in Afghanistan for top Nato officers. The BBC also carried a report on the leaked document.
"Many Afghans are already bracing themselves for an eventual return of the Taliban," the report was quoted as saying. "Once Isaf (Nato-led forces) is no longer a factor, Taliban consider their victory inevitable."
The document stated that Pakistan’s security agency was helping the Taliban in directing attacks against foreign forces – a charge long denied by Islamabad.
The findings were based on interrogations of more than 4,000 Taliban and al-Qaida detainees, the Times said, adding the document was scarce on identifying individual insurgents.
A US state department spokesman and Britain’s Foreign Office both declined comment on the report. Nato and Pakistani officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Despite the presence of more than 100,000 foreign troops, the UN has said violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the Taliban were ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) says levels of violence are falling.
Citing the same report, the BBC reported on its website that Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency knew the locations of senior Taliban leaders and supported the expulsion of "foreign invaders from Afghanistan".
"Senior Taliban leaders meet regularly with ISI personnel, who advise on strategy and relay any pertinent concerns of the government of Pakistan."
The Times said the document suggested the Taliban were gaining in popularity, partly because the severe Islamist movement was becoming more tolerant.
The report was quoted as stating: "It remains to be seen whether a revitalised, more progressive Taliban will endure if they continue to gain power and popularity. Regardless, at least within the Taliban the refurbished image is already having a positive effect on morale.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Feb 01, 2012 1:24 am
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Afghanistan, China sign first oil contract
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s government signed a deal Wednesday with China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corporation, allowing it to become the first foreign company to exploit the country’s oil and natural gas reserves.
The contract, which covers the northeastern provinces of Sari Pul and Faryab, is the first of several such blocks to be put on the market in coming months, Afghan Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani said during the signing ceremony.
Bidding information for blocks in neighboring Balkh province will be released at the end of February, and for the western Herat province by next summer, he said.
Afghanistan has been seeking to find ways to exploit some of its mineral wealth to offset the loss of revenues when foreign aid and spending drops when international combat troops leave by the end of 2014. The government has been keen to develop an oil-extraction and refining capability for the landlocked nation, which is entirely reliant on fuel imports from neighboring Iran and Central Asian nations.
"This will bring enormous financial benefits to the government," Shahrani said. "It will be an important step toward self-sufficiency."
The ministry listed the initial value of the project with CNPC as $700 million. But the total could be ten times greater if more reserves are found and developed, and if international oil prices remain at today’s levels, Shahrani said.
The fuel pact allows the Chinese firm to research oil and natural gas blocks in Sari Pul and Faryab, an area known as the Amu Darya River Basin that was first explored by Soviet engineers in the 1960s. The Soviets estimated the reserves at about 87 million barrels, but both the Afghan and Chinese partners believe they will prove to be much larger.
CNPC will also build a refinery — Afghanistan’s first — within the next three years, after the real size of the reserves is established with greater accuracy, said Lu Gong Xun, president of CNPC’s international branch.
Shahrani said the deal calls for the Afghan government to receive 70 percent of the profits from the sale of the oil and natural gas. CNPC will also pay 15 percent in royalties, as well as corporate taxes and rent for the land used for its operations.
Afghanistan’s army and police will set up special units to guard the project, Shahrani said.
The provinces of Sari Pul and Faryab are located hundreds of miles from the centers of fighting in the east and southeast and are considered relatively safe. As a result, the U.S.-led NATO force has already transferred or is turning over responsibility for security in large parts of the region to the Afghan army and police.
Surveys conducted by the Soviets have shown that Afghanistan sits on vast mineral wealth. Afghan and foreign companies already have shown interest, notably in its untapped copper, iron and oil deposits. But with poor infrastructure and security problems stemming from the 10-year war, most Western mining companies have shied away from firm commitments.
So far, companies from China — with which Afghanistan shares a small stretch of border in its east — have been in the forefront of investments in the nation.
Three years ago the China Metallurgical Construction Co. signed a contract to develop the Aynak copper mine in Logar province. Beijing’s $3.5 billion stake in the mine is the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan so far.
The U.S. Defense Department has put a $1 trillion price tag on Afghanistan’s mineral reserves. Other estimates have pegged it at $3 trillion or more.
But the potential windfall for the landlocked country will require international investment, a better transportation network and much improved security.
"This government must stand on its feet," said Mustafa Zahir, the head of the government’s environment agency. "Without using our natural resources we cannot achieve this."
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:45 pm
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