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Here’s the New Afghan Strategy Trump’s Been Waiting For

in Afghan Business

Here’s the New Afghan Strategy Trump’s Been Waiting For

The Introduction. President Trump is looking for better options before deciding policy on the war in Afghanistan. The latest headlines describe the problem but no one seems to have the solution: What will Trump do about Afghanistan?[1] He is right when Trump Says U.S. ‘Losing’ Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals[2]. Trump is frustrated with Afghan war strategy recommendations[3] and so am I. Trump Compared Afghanistan Policy Review to 21 Club Renovation.[4] He’s right to get other points of view: Trump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Devise Options for Afghanistan[5]. Isn’t it obvious? It’s the economy, stupid.

The Challenge. 17 years of American war and the Taliban control an increasingly large percentage of the country[6]. “Military victory is not plausible in any foreseeable time frame.”[7] The body count piles higher every year, now eclipsing 104,000 deaths[8]. While 76% of civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban[9], the insurgency’s effective propaganda machine results in many Afghans increasingly blaming foreign intervention instead of the Taliban. That means with each person killed, many more terrorists are added to the battle field – not removed[10]. Furthermore, with reports of training sanctuaries in Pakistan[11], funding from Iran[12], weapons from Russia[13], record opium harvests[14] and illegal mining[15], the support for the Taliban seems to come from a broad range of actors and entities.

The Resources. Afghanistan’s arid mountain ranges sit on billions of barrels of oil and national gas, 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium.”[16] These have been carefully surveyed by the U.S. Geological Survey itself[17], not to even mention countless gemstones and marble deposits. “The previously unknown deposits 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. Ghazni Province may hold the world’s largest lithium reserves.”[18] Total estimated value: $3 trillion[19].

The Population. 63.52% of the Afghan population is under 25 years old[20] – one of the youngest in the world. But only 38.2% are literate. Each year, hundreds of thousands of Afghans come of age only to face a market with one the highest unemployment rates in the world.  Each working Afghan supports nearly a dozen other family members. Everyone is desperate for work and poverty does tempt some to accept Taliban job offers[21].

The Solution. With nearly $1 trillion[22] spent in Afghanistan already, President Trump rightfully wonders “Why should we keep wasting our money?” and “What’s in it for us?[23] There is a need for finding the right balance between Afghan and US interests which are inter-twined in Afghanistan. Currently, China and India are into Afghan mining contracts. Why not the United States? Isn’t Rick Perry the oil man? Trump Digs Coal, right? Five Goldman Sachs bankers in the White House? Let’s put it together for a win-win: Have American mining companies setup shop in Afghanistan – employing thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Afghans. Trump’s new military strategy would then be simple and it is practically his job description: protect American interests while boosting the economy. We can win a war where the goal is simply to defend American mines. We can’t win a war by drone bombing terrorists to no end.

The Result. Every Afghan breadwinner employed is an entire family out of the war. Every dollar gained for American mining not only strengthens America’s economy but is taxed to be able support the Afghan government to stand on its own feet as well. Each mine dug is one less revenue stream for the Taliban. I’d even thrown in a morphine plant to take the opium trade away from the Taliban too.

The Start. Where to begin, you ask? We could start with the resources that are close to the existing 8 bases that the United States has already manage in Afghanistan: Bagram, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, Helmand, Gardez, Jalalabad and Shindand.[24] With U.S. military’s incredible and unparalleled international abilities in defense, construction, logistics and a $598 billion annual budget[25], this mission is perfect for them. Rex Tillerson’s ExxonMobil should be the first.

To Market. How would you get the resources out of a landlocked country you ask? Protected by the U.S. military, go through the closest route – Pakistan’s Karachi port or Iran’s Charbahar port or through the Central Asia to China and Russian markets. By bringing neighboring countries into the massive mining value chain, their business interests also start to align with Afghanistan and the United States in that they would want to protect their own economies as well. Their interests and growth will also materialize with a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is making great strides into becoming an international transit hub with road, rail, grid, fiber and more – connecting north & south, east & west across its 5 neighbors as the central jigsaw puzzle piece in the heart of Asia.

The End. With over $1 trillion spent in Afghanistan by past administrations, can President Trump the businessman flip it for a $3 trillion pay out that helps both Afghans and Americans? I’d call that book the Art of a Deal.

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38730061

[2] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-says-u-s-losing-afghan-war-tense-meeting-generals-n789006

[3] http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/08/06/trump-is-frustrated-with-afghan-war-strategy-recommendations/

[4] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/trump-compared-afghanistan-war-to-21-club-renovation-report.html

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-policy-erik-prince-stephen-feinberg.html

[6] http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/08/taliban-control-of-afghan-districts-remains-unchanged-according-sigar.php

[7] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/08/trump-afghanistan/535788/

[8] http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan

[9] http://www.weeklystandard.com/un-taliban-responsible-for-76-of-deaths-in-afghanistan/article/490510

[10] https://news.vice.com/article/i-didnt-join-the-taliban-because-i-was-poor-i-joined-because-i-was-angry-report-finds-injustice-not-unemployment-radicalizes-youth

[11] http://indianexpress.com/article/world/eliminate-taliban-sanctuaries-in-pakistan-to-win-afghan-war-us-official-4414574/

[12] https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-backs-taliban-with-cash-and-arms-1434065528

[13] http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/25/asia/taliban-weapons-afghanistan/index.html

[14] http://www.tolonews.com/node/43591

[15] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-taliban-mining-idUSKBN13114J

[16] https://www.livescience.com/47682-rare-earth-minerals-found-under-afghanistan.html

[17] https://afghanistan.cr.usgs.gov/minerals

[18] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mining_in_Afghanistan

[19] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghanistans-untapped-minerals-worth-3-trillion-2003616.html

[20] https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/af.html

[21] http://www.irinnews.org/report/83310/afghanistan-tempted-taliban-job-offer


[23] https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/08/trump-afghanistan/535788/

[24] https://www.ahg.af/aca/

[25] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States

By Ender Redne

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