Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

The Bush WH sold the continued war in Iraq-- that it would pay for itself in oil. The Obama WH has the Pentagon trotting out this propoganda via the NYTimes about how there's "nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan." 

I know its not nice to step out of the partisan shill range that would take this at face; but come on-- are there actually sheep that buy this planted crap?

Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists.

Are there actually people who feel better about this particular bipartisan invasion/occupation/war because the US military will be shielding for corporations to exploit the land of Afghanistan?

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully.

Well, no doubt about it then, that this means "decades" and a trillion more of US wealth redistribution from us to the military corporations.

Anyway, this piece of propaganda has been known for years. It wasn't until the Pentagon and President Obama needed some "good news" to sell that they marketed up this dish for mass consumption.

Richard Kline:

And keep in mind, this is all taking place at the height of The Surge II in the region with maximum deployment of assets declared as the primary objective of the present occupation campaigning season.

There is a word for this configuration of conditions: defeat. This is why Stan McChrystal is re-polishing his shiny balls: he and his are completely immobilized, have lost any operational initiative that they may have had, can’t do a damn thing about it, and are now trying to keep the large population centers hostage to some kind of settlement. This looks highly like the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, minus the saturation bombing but with far more boots on the ground. This looks amazingly like the Indochina dumb-a-thon; even the kind of rhetoric used by the guys in the article I mention would be entirely in place, trying to paint a picture of failure as one where the occupation is ‘in control and on plan’ by milspeak fuzziness and omission, much of it the unintentional result of what is left when candor is excluded.

We’ve lost in Afghanistan. The only one winning there are the grossly parasitic private contractors sucking down the governments billions at cost-plus for another season of the Long Score of which they are the sole beneficiaries.

Yves Smith:

Do you think a culture that has depended on farming and herding is going to be keen to have the countryside turned into a strip mine? Even if some Afghans warm to the idea, others are sure to oppose it vigorously.

Moreover, as happens in war, we’ve killed a lot of civilians. And we haven’t been too clever about choosing friends either. This combination is fatal. I’ve been told by Afghanis (readers are welcome to correct me if I am wrong) that this is a part of the world where the responsibility for avenging a murder carries across generations. One said that it would be impossible to subdue its 29 million population short of exterminating them: “We will hunt you down across the world.”

While these commentators may be overstating their blood lust and tenacity, a much simpler point appears to be true: we’ve made a complete mess in a region that now has even more strategic value than we had thought. And our Plan B, of buying the locals off, does not look likely to appeal to them

Imperialism, ugly business, isn’t it?

The financial bloggers sure are much more to the point than the regular partisan bloggers among Democratic leaning bloggers.

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What Are They THinking?

When I first saw the headlines in the Times, I was hoping that this story would just be based on some flunkies, who were trying to score points in some internal battle.  For example, individuals who are trying to make the case within the Administration that we should not begin drawing down our troops in 2011.

I still think that may be the case.  However, since the article has favorable, attributed quotes from General Petreaus, then such characterizion seems doubtful, particularly if there is not a statement from Gibbs today saying that this story does not change the Administration's plans regarding troop levels.  Rather, the article represents, at the very least, serious thinking by the highest levels of Administration officials who are responsible for our policy in Afghanistan. 

In answer to Jerrome's question about whether there are people who would be influenced by such "crap," I think there are.  I think this article is directed to the op-ed writers of the Washington Post and the New York Times and to the other "serious" "hard boiled" "pragmatic" foreign policy "experts" who write articles for such publications and appear on the Sunday news programs.  These people, the insiders, the "experts" are almsot always the primary target audience for the Administration's statements, for domestic policy as well as foreign.  And I think those people will be swayed by these types of considerations because they think these are the types of factors that should govern foreign-military-security policy.

Of course, any serious person whose mind is not trapped in the Beltway will tell you that this is rubbish.  A country, no matter how powerful, can not bend the people in a foregn land to do our every bidding.  Neither Afghanis, nor Iraqis, are going to suffer endless misery just so we can have ready access to oil or lithium.  Ultimately, the supporters of an Imperial policy demonstrate ignorance of world history-and our country's reason for greatness.  To me, the great advantage our post World War II foreign and military policies have had is that we are able to align our self interest with the interests of people in other lands.  In short, our security and ecomomic well being are enhanced when other people experience democracy and propsperity.  Yet, an Imperial policy, no matter how it is "sold," is based on the pursuit of the Imperial countriy's interest at the expense of people else where.  This strategy simply can not suceed.

To me, what is so dissappointing about this article is that I thought if I could count on Obama for nothing else, he would reverse this type of "Imperial" policy.  Apparently, I was mistken.       


by Andy Katz 2010-06-14 12:10PM | 1 recs
RE: What Are They THinking?

I am waiting for the part of how this is an "imperial" policy...Iraq was a imperial policy by Bush, it failed horribly, and we are leaving. 

A-stan was like the crack-house on the your block:  First you deal with the owners (invasion), then you try to clean the place up (garrison), and then you deal with the neighbors who let this happen, and finally you work your way toward dealing with the underlying causes that made A-stan a crack house in the first place...systemic policy.  Guess which step is the hardest and the longest?

Being involved in non-US business is not Imperial, unless you consider the Marshall plan also to be Imperial...if WE dictated the leaders in A-stan, and I doubt it even now, and if WE just kept extracting everything we could from A-stan while victimizing its people, THEN you have Imperial policy.  Unless I am missing some huge piece of the puzzle, we ain't there quite yet...

by Hammer1001 2010-06-14 03:13PM | 0 recs
RE: What Are They THinking?

Its been nearly 10 years and hundreds of billions lost, what do you want out of Afghanistan?  Whatever it is, I guarantee you that there's not a military solution to get there.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-14 03:19PM | 0 recs
RE: What Are They THinking?

I never said MILITARY solution.  Military force is the start of stability, not a end result.  I would give up 100 years and our entire economy lost if it actually HELPS. 

The military has its own warts, but the military contractors are the problem.  As are the mercenaries and the corporate consultants.  I am not kicking them as a convenient "dog", they really have grown too large for their purpose and tehy end up leaving us, the US, holding the bag of crap when it all falls down.  They have their purpose in limited support, NOT as the main force.  We lost the vision of the Govt. entity doing the work with help...this is what I see killing us. 

by Hammer1001 2010-06-14 05:34PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

Still waiting on a better solution to what we are doing now.  I notice that the screaming left only wants us out, not that they have some sort of solution to actually, you know, HELP the people in A-stan...

If this is true, A-stan might actually get some attention rather than being treated as a armpit and haven for illegal activities.  Sounds like GOOD news.  Better to put efforts into making sure that WHEN the mining goes in they do not victimize the locals, but let them buy in.  You know, HELP them get a step up using our experiences.

But as seems to be with mydd lately, let no good news go unpunished.

by Hammer1001 2010-06-14 12:12PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

This isn't good news, its old news. Repackaged for cunsumption by the Pentagon to sway public opinion.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-14 12:31PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

P.S. you never answered my question about your idea of a "better" solution.

by Hammer1001 2010-06-14 03:41PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

how can you have a better solution than no solution at all?  Did you miss the part where this was old news?  We have know about these minerals for a long time and they weren't a solution years ago so why are they now?

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-06-20 05:08PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

And what exactly are you proposing, that we wait another 10 years to find a better solution?  The US debt needs to go to what level before its time for a change?

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-14 12:33PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

I propose we, as the US, take our heads out of our gold plated asses and dela with reality instead of delaing with what we wish reality was.


1. We are WAY too greedy.  We need to go back to our more generous habits..."waste" is what we call it now.

2. We really do need to commit to our role in A-stan...I think it should be first as protector with a definate goal to slowly turn things over to the Afghani's.  This is something we have done in the past as well (Post WWII Europe), but we also seem to have lost this.

3. US Debt?  I could give a rats ass about that.  This is a interconnected world, not a set of individual societies in exclusion.  While we love to talk of how the world would fall if we do, we have a hard time considering that some portion of the world could take US down as well...  I would rather go bankrupt as a country doing the RIGHT thing that to be austere and allow the WRONG thing to happen.  I have been blessed living in this country at this time and I would GLADLY give up a LOT of the comforts I enjoy with my family to make the world a more JUST and PEACEFULL place.  So I do my best to buy my food locally, and to get some things I need from fair-trade sources if I can, for example.

4. The information was gathered by the Soviets, and forgotten.  Then it was brought to US attention after the invasion.  Then they confirmed the info and then did much BETTER analysis.  Once it was all confirmed it was slowly brought to higher level of govt.  I am sure there was some political awareness as to this announcement (he said cynically), but I do not think we had confirmed information for YEARS, but maybe a few months.

5.  This could be one of two things...a great evil brought upon A-stan after they are raped by multinational corporations, or it could be a great blessing in that they have resources that could not only help them get away from being only a roadway for piping oil or to grow Poppies, but to also bring in legitimate jobs on THEIR ground, utilizing THEM.  They will require education, they will gain greater resources to see the rest of the world, and they will PROSPER as many others do.  The question is which version do YOU want to help them fight for?

The problem with our world right now is actually fairly simple, in a way.  We have gone from promoting and living a life of Generous Capitalism, that sees helping everyone as being the best way to ensure success and prosperity, to the life of Sterilization Capitalism, where you not only consume every possible resource, you end up destroying the lives of those around the business AND those in it (People fundamentally do not like to victimize others and it takes a powerfull coertion to change that...)  Generosity and tolerance are in the balance vs. greed and genocide right now.  That is why this is such a hard thing to deal with, we are fighting a silent culture war over the nature of our soul.

by Hammer1001 2010-06-14 03:40PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

Genourous Capitalism cannot be sold at the end of a gun barrel. I've posted at length before about what a long-term solution would be in Afghanistan, in short, roads not soldiers. But I think its too late. Its lost and the opportunity gone.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-14 05:00PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

Jerome, you have to START with soldiers or NOTHING ever gets done, period.  Noone ever behaved because someone else asked pretty please.  But Military intervention is only the START, the foundation.  What we do next is what will define us and I would hope that it will be more like the Marshall plan and less like the Banana republics, but that depends on how WE push this as the US, and the rest of the world.

by Hammer1001 2010-06-14 05:30PM | 0 recs
I apologize for barging in here...

because I am enjoying your back and forth with Jerome; and you do have a sense of passion for your arguments.

However, I also think you have missed one fundamental.  Historically, the Afghan region's prosperity has been derived from trading, and not from guns or minerals or opium. Thus, there is a reasonable likelihood of trading being the source of prosperity, if/when it returns to Afghanistan.  This is because the Afghanistan/Pakistan region is the crossroads for the historical silk road.

And while it is true that you cannot have trading without some semblance of security, security is not a sufficient condition for trading; and oftentimes security becomes counterproductive to trading.  The reality is that the trade routes have been closed for over 50 years because of Pakistan's fears vis-a-vis India having too much influence on Afghanistan... this was true even when security was not an issue (such as pre-1978).  It is more true now, with so many soldiers in place to ensure that the flow of arms/money/people is restricted. 

Guess what...when you restrict the flow of people because you want to restrict the flow of terrorists, you also restrict trade.  Over time, this strengthens the terrorists (by which I mean people who use guns to earn a living); which leads to a demand for more soldiers etc... that is the vicious cycle we are in now.

by Ravi Verma 2010-06-14 05:59PM | 0 recs
RE: I apologize for barging in here...

No problem.

I am considering what would be the history of A-stan, but I think that the idea of them just being a prosperous crossroads of trade is along the same lines as thinking that America will once again be a mainly agrairian society. 

The limits of "people flow", as you mentioned, are very important as well and that is why the responsable exploitation (is that a oxymoron or what) of the mineral resources there can help as well in that regard.

Again, security/military force is the FIRST step in a long road.

by Hammer1001 2010-06-15 10:46AM | 0 recs
RE: I apologize for barging in here...

From <a href=; this link </a>

The Afghans, as usual, and to a man, were critical of Pakistan’s not looking out for Afghanistan’s interests, in so many ways: alleging for example the two extremes of facilitating the presence of Afghan Taliban on the Pakistani side of the border who then attack targets in Afghanistan; and not facilitating the easy movement of fruits across the border, which rot in their trucks while the drivers wait for visas at Torkham. If true, it is a crying shame. The government must do all it can to remove any bottlenecks in this regard.

It is said by our government that this happens because of smuggling of luxury goods such as refrigerators and air-conditioners which are purportedly meant for Afghanistan but which find their way into Pakistan’s smuggling markets.

Well, if this is so, it is entirely our fault is it not, that we cannot control smuggling. Why take it out on the Afghan people who already have more than anyone’s fair share of troubles on their plate? I do think the time has come for our country to do far more than it is in helping Afghanistan in every way possible.

by Ravi Verma 2010-06-15 02:01PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

There problem is it's becoming more and more clear that the US and NATO forces are fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan against a Pakistan ISI backed Taliban. But like I wrote in the diary, the US policy in Afghanistan is to escalate the conflict while throwing money in Pakistan which is ironically being used to fight us. Is there a solution to this problem? Ironically the best solution was extending the initial Bush policy, which was ensuring complete Pakistani compliance with explicit threats for bad behavior and rewarding good behavior, of course that was before they fucked it all up by diverting resources to fight a disastrous and unnecessary war in Iraq. Right now US has to start focusing on Pakistan more. The solution to Afghanistan lies in tackling the Pakistani problem and no, giving more money and arms to Pakistan is not the answer.

by tarheel74 2010-06-14 06:43PM | 0 recs
RE: Afghanistan: lithium is the new oil

I know for sure that the US is focused on Pakistan...but the mess there goes back to the wonderful Reagan years at least.  We are seeing a lot of the problems in Pakistan, and India, come to the forefront when the people causing the problems there want to be left in the shadows, so that is a start.  Pakistan has had to start dealing with thier internal problems a lot more seriously than they have wanted to and actually show some results.  I can say that there is positive movement forward, but there is a LOT left to do and any number of places it could all easily fall apart.


But I would agree...Pakistan is the key to A-stan.  What a freakin' mess...

by Hammer1001 2010-06-15 10:50AM | 0 recs
The "Solution" to Afghanistan

To me, there is only one course of action now-negotiate a settlement with the Taliban and get out.  According to reports I read last summer, Mullah Omar is willing to move the Taliban away from al queada and allow US forces to remain in A-stan for a couple years in a transition period.  If true, I would accept that in a second.

Note that this solution also helps us in Pakistan.  While there are some differences between the Pakistan and A-stan versions of the Taliban, the former seems closer to al queada, if we reach a settlement with the latter, I think this will remove great pressure from Pakistan.  To me, the proper strategy is to isolate al queada and the only way to do that is to reach a deal with the Talibs.


by Andy Katz 2010-06-14 09:58PM | 0 recs
RE: The "Solution" to Afghanistan

Andy, it depends on what you mean by the Taliban of A-stan.  Are you talking about the moderates/pragmatics that may be tolerable by Human Rights standards (maybe) or are you talking about the previous occupants of A-stan that were inflicting misery on the population even before Al Queda were allowed in?

I don't want to sit and equate Taliban with the same dark cloud as one would Nazi, but when they (and any religious extreemists be they Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddist/etc...) promote the value of denegration and hatred, they do not have my confidence.  I know the ills of the West as well, but unlike many who have simply washed their hands and walked away, I still work to attempt reform and "preach" tolerance as I can.  Maybe in vain, but I do not think so...and catering to what may be only a barely tolerable regime vs. something truly horrible sounds like too much pragmatism for me to swallow in this instance.  I guess I would need more info on who woudl be dealt with.

by Hammer1001 2010-06-15 11:15AM | 0 recs


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