With the 10th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan upon us, you have already started to see a lot of media hand-wringing introspection on whether the war was worth it, whether we should remain in Afghanistan, and what the historical effect will be.
The Czar will tell you some things about Afghanistan that will interest you, because no one has ever, in history, found Afghanistan to be a simple situation.
The United States has been quietlyvery quietlybringing in teams of geologists under military guard to take a variety of soil samples all over Afghanistan. These geologists are not only government scientists, but also include a variety of individuals from private companies (you read that right!). Why? What have they found?
Meanwhile, you probably also know that the United Statesas gloriously rich in natural resources as we aredoesnt have everything we need. A host of precious metals, from niobium to scandium to the delightfully named ytterbium, are not found in meaningful amounts here in the US. And these metals go into everything from aircraft parts, to solar panels, to x-ray machines, to hydrogen-based technology. The US needs this stuff bad, and we do not have it.
Who does have it? China. And indeed pretty much China alone. China sits on all the meaningful supply of so-called rare earth metals. And China has been nice enough to sell this stuff to the US, and has begun to realize that supplies are running low.
Gormogons Spotlight On: AfghanistanOr maybe not. Anyway, China sits on pretty much the only supply of these things and has realized this is a massive cash cow either way. Contracts have begun expiring, and Chinawho once exported 120,000 tons of these bad boys per yearhas cut exports down to under 30,000 tons a year.
And, in 2012, China has expressed an intent to cut the supplyready for more bad news?to zero tons. You read that right, too: China plans to stop all exports to protect its supply. Prices will skyrocket even more than they have already. The United States could potentially line up other suppliers, but the costs and complexities in doing so will not reach meaningful production levels until almost 2020. As a result, China will own the advanced technologies industry, as far as rare earth elements go, for the next decade or so. This is bad news for us, right?
Not if things go according to plan. Because those geologists our military has been sneaking into Afghanistan have found that Afghanistan is sitting on a trillion dollar supply of rare earth elements, precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum, and more. Lots more. Decades more.
Enough, in fact, to make the opium trade completely chump change to the average Afghani. Why put in all that hard work in your poppy fields when a private company can come in, pay you a fortune, and rake all these rare earth metals up in your own yard for you? Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a Dubai-like country.
Now, suppose Afghanistan were intensely friendly to us, and not so friendly with China. With whom would they want to trade? The country that decapitated the Taliban and kinda sorta helped us out with finding these minerals, or the country to the Northeast that competes with us directly for the same products? Easy answerprovided the United States appeals to the better nature of Afghanis.
There are a couple of wrinkles with this plan. Most obviously, you think, if we pull out of Afghanistan now, we could lose their support. Odds are, neither a complete US pullout or a loss of support is the most likely issue: the real threat is that Russia and/or India will step in to displace us as a purchasing partner. Not good. Of course, we maintain a slight edge if we let private industry manage this. The competition would be better for the average Afghani, as opposed to government-sponsored, government-owned US, Russian, or Indian interests. The latter would make the average Afghani a nice profit, but the former would insist on putting in roadways, plumbing, schools, hospitals, and more in order to support their workforcethe way private American and British industries competed to build the infrastructure in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s.
There is a worse wrinkle, short-term: guess where all the good metals are? Right: sitting under Taliban-held territory. By chance or design, the Taliban remain strong in the areas with the greatest potential. Understand, though, that precious and rare earth metals are all over Afghanistan. But the most money is sitting under a vicious group of people too stupid to do anything with it. As long as the Taliban remains un-executed, those fields will be growing opium poppies, and not providing for long-term US economic interests.
But the worst wrinkle comes from an unexpected direction. Pakistan.
The foreign policy experts are starting to realize that Pakistan is growing a brain. And that brain says that Pakistan is in serious trouble. The Pakistanis are sitting on land largely useless to them, whereas their mortal enemy, India, is ready, willing, and able to set up shop in Afghanistan for those resources. Imagine: Pakistan, smooshed between India to the South and a possibly pro-India world player to the North. Make no mistake: Afghanistan has the potential to be a powerfully wealthy and productive country, providing its citizens everything that Pakistan has failed to do in 60 years of Islamization.
As a result, Pakistan (which has never been a truly unified country ) is facing a serious crisisone they possibly view as existential: if we want to remain a regional powerhouse, we need to keep Afghanistan a filthy, unwanted hole. And to do that, we need to prevent the US from turning it into a success.
And as much as Pakistan enjoys the US financial supportwhich is just enough to encourage Pakistan to help us off a bad guy once in a blue moonthe reality is that the US is no longer in Pakistans long-term best interests. As a result, you see this weird schism happening whereby Pakistan helps us a little bit, but ultimately is positioning itself to become a renegade anti-American problem. Pakistan, like Iran, will soon announce it is surrounded by enemies. And isolate itself into rabid paranoia.
Paranoid with nukes, you think. Yes, but a nuclear problem is probably far-fetched at this point. No one is happy that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, but some things to keep in mind include: if Pakistan were going to let those slip to terrorists, they would have done so by now. And they would have been used. And Pakistan is held in check by Indias arsenal: there is excellent incentive not to use them (unlike Iran, who intend for a nuclear conflagration to occur in Israel, well away from Iranian soil). And terrorism, while a useful tool to keep Afghanistan a toxic mess, is not particularly welcome in Pakistan itself. Yeah, many Pakis support the Taliban…over there, not over here.
So here is what you will see: a growing need for the US to remain in Afghanistan, and at the same time an increasingly dangerous and unhelpful Pakistan. Likewise, you will see increased terror in Afghanistan intending to de-stabilize the American advantage, while a complicating relationship develop between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The bottom line is this: for the next two decades, things will not be going well for Pakistan, and things could be going very well indeed for Afghanistan.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.