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WHY WE FIGHT: Pentagon Discovers Vast Mineral Wealth In Afghanistan, Worth A Trillion Dollars

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NEW YORK TIMES: The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that 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. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said. While it could take many years to develop a avatar-modern-2.jpgmining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war. MORE

 RELATED: The devastated country has already emerged as the latest frontier in the rush for mineral resources. In April, plans were announced to start mining copper in the Aynak valley, soutwest of Kabul, which holds one of the world’s biggest untapped copper deposits, estimated to be worth up to $88_billion (£44 billion) – more than double Afghanistan’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007. In November, a 30-year lease was sold to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan’s history. MORE

RELATED: It’s going to be a long, hot summer in Afghanistan as the last of the extra troops President Obama ordered into harm’s way arrive avatar-modern-2.jpgfor the biggest offensives yet. For the first time in the history of the nearly nine-year U.S.-led war, military leaders aren’t sugarcoating the untold bloodshed to come in the sunny season that best suits Taliban hit-and-run tactics. “Violence is up, and I think violence will continue to rise, particularly over the summer months,” Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO‘s Afghanistan commander, said last week. By then, there will be 100,000 pairs of American boots on the ground – more than double last summer, including three times as many Special Operations Forces. With more troops comes more combat – and more casualties. MORE

RELATED: Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency not only funds and trains Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, but also maintains its own representation on the insurgency’s leadership council, claims a new report issued by the London School of Economics. Assertions that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, continues to nurture links with the Afghan Taliban are not new. But the scope of that relationship claimed by the report’s author, Matt Waldman, is startling and could prove damaging to the fragile alliance Washington is trying to foster with Pakistan, its military establishment, and its weak civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari. avatar-modern-2.jpgWaldman, a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, based his assertions on interviews with nine Afghan Taliban commanders as well as with Afghan and Western security officials. The report claims that it is official Pakistan governmental policy to support the Taliban’s insurgency in Afghanistan, and that the ISI has a strong voice on the Quetta shura, the Afghan Taliban’s leadership council, named after the southern Pakistani city believed to serve as the council’s haven. MORE

RELATED: Unmanned aircraft have proved their usefulness and reliability in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the pressure’s on to allow them in the skies over the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to issue flying rights for a range of pilotless planes to carry out civilian and law-enforcement functions but has been hesitant to act. Officials are worried that they might plow into airliners, avatar-modern-2.jpgcargo planes and corporate jets that zoom around at high altitudes, or helicopters and hot air balloons that fly as low as a few hundred feet off the ground. On top of that, these pilotless aircraft come in a variety of sizes. Some are as big as a small airliner, others the size of a backpack. The tiniest are small enough to fly through a house window. MORE

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