The highlighting of China’s strangle-hold on the world’s Rare Earth Materials (REM) in The Guardian ( please see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/31/rare-earth-greenland?INTCMP=SRCH.) brings into focus the importance of Afghanistan and the potential for conflict over resources when ISAF forces leave.
One eminent commentator about Afghanistan said recently that the word was ‘we don’t want another Congo’: the implication being that the fighting in the Congo over resources served a brutal reminder about what potential for mayhem lies under the ground in Afghanistan, surrounded as it is by such resource-hungry neighbours. And to underline the point on the same day as The Guardian’s REM report appeared so did acres of coverage about the huge power black-out across India: all the new technology powered by REM was putting unsustainable demand on India’s electricity supplies.
A US Geological Survey conducted between 2009-2011 in Afghanistan discovered significant amounts of copper, iron-ore, gold, lithium, REM, as well as coal, oil and gas, prompting a conservative value of the combined resources at $3trillion.
Already the prophets of doom are talking about the ‘resource curse’: ‘ landlocked, underdeveloped, undereducated, ethnically fractious, insanely rich and surrounded by powerful neighbours Afghanistan is a prime candidate for the resource curse, that paradox wherein resource-rich countries at best suffer poor development and economic growth and at worst are torn apart by brutal governments and civil war’, writes Nathan William Meyer (please see the full article on http://www.internationalpolicydigest.org/2012/06/27/damned-by-riches-how-afghanistans-mineral-wealth-undermines-nato-mission/).
To carry on with the Congo comparison Meyer points out that the price of a Kalashnikov in Afghanistan ($150) is not a great deal more than in the Congo. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre