Afghanistan find opens new future for that country

opinions

June 16, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Now Afghans can change the subject from war to building an economy without poppies.
Monday’s front page news was that U.S. geologists have confirmed that Afghanistan has enormous untapped mineral wealth. It can be a major world supplier of copper, iron, lithium, cobalt and gold.
The United States is working with the Af-ghanistan government to begin to develop a mining industry to take ad-vantage of the immense economic potential these discoveries present. The initial estimate is that the deposits identified have a value of $1 trillion. That ballpark estimate really isn’t all that significant. What matters is that Afghanistan can create for itself an economy that will allow it to move from one of the world’s most impoverished agrarian states in the world, dependent on the drug trade and foreign aid, to a modern industrial society with a prosperous middle class and to do so in a time frame that will include today’s young and middle-aged.
Monday’s report in the New York Times, which was relayed through the Associated Press to the Register and the rest of the information industry, also addressed concerns: Will the Taliban go all-out to recapture control of the country? Will the corrupt Karzai government funnel this new wealth to warlords and his inner circle? Will China, which already has won a franchise to develop a rich vein of copper, be able to move in and dominate other mineral deposits?
Legitimate concerns, but maybe unnecessary borrowing of trouble.
An Afghanistan wealthy in mineral de-posits is an Afghanistan that can join the company of independent na-tions and provide its people with the essentials of a good life: adequate food, health care, education and provision for its children, its elderly, its crippled and its dependent. It also is a nation that has every incentive to move away from war and violence to begin the long, but infinitely exciting journey from a punishing present into a future full of hope and promise.
Mining experts point out that developing the mineral deposits identified will take decades. Instant prosperity is not the prospect. Fine. But jobs will be created from day one.
And perhaps it will take long enough to create a mining superstructure and the transportation superstructure that it will require so that there will be time to create the work force re-quired.
Nor would it be a bad thing if engineers, mining managers and others with needed skills came in from China, Canada, the United States, South Africa, Brazil, Bolivia and other countries with mining expertise to help with the transition from war and opium to ex-porter of essential mineral resources.

THE CONCERNS that observers have about potential hijackers of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth can best be ad-dressed by diligent development of the democracy the U.S. and its allies have tried to promote.
If a strong representative government ruled by laws rather than warlords, or their Karzai equivalent, can be developed as the mining superstructure is being built, the wealth of the nation can be managed by and for its people and not pilfered by its overlords.
The United States and the United Nations should devote themselves to that cause — and then go back home and let Afghanistan find its own future.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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