As most people I think know, Afghanistan does not have many exports, except for one, and as financially lucrative a crop it is, it is also illegal in many countries, including this one. I’m talking of course about opium. It has been and continues to be one of the only major industries in Afghanistan. It has also been used to wield significant power and authority within the Afghan government in Kabul and among the various provinces. The crop seemingly carries with it the stench of corruption, that infests the souls of those who operate within its trade.

However, according to the Pentagon, there may be hope for a new kind of industry in Afghanistan, and one that may even help to turn the tides of the war, which has been trending downwards as of late. The industry is minerals, and according to geological  studies of the landscape, it is a veritable “gold mine!”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/world/asia/14minerals.html?no_interstitial

As the article describes, the United States has desperately been looking for a way to develop the economy of Afghanistan away from opium, and into something more legal and therefore, more marketable to an international audience. The hope of course is for the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan to get distracted by the immense opportunities that the minerals industry will bring to the countryside, and so they will forget about the war and how their lives have been impacted by it.

I am all for economic development, when it is responsible and responsive to the desires of the native population and their physical environment. However, don’t count on me jumping for joy at the prospect of multi-national mineral extraction companies invading Afghanistan and investing millions or billions of dollars creating an industry from scratch in a country that already has a history of opposing foreign entities.

The war in Afghanistan is turning more and more sour for a reason. When an occupier comes into someone’s native land and brings only violence and destruction with it, is it so unreasonable to think that they would do whatever they can to protect themselves and their homes, especially when there is such a storied history of it being practiced? This scenario is being played over and over again in the current war, and given the terrible history extractive industries have in many developing and third-world countries (i.e. the oil industry and worker exploitation, economic desertion, environmental degradation, violence, etc.), I cannot help but think the same pattern will be repeated.

If you would like an environmental perspective on this story from our Global Environment Fellow Lisa, check out her post here!

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