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Afghanistan is a land of paradox. It is a very poor country, yet at the same time, quite rich. This, one of the most egalitarian places in the world, is sitting on an estimated $3 trillion in untapped natural resources, according to the former Afghan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani and reported by Reuters. Communist China, the Taliban’s financier via its enabler Pakistan, will reap Afghanistan’s wealth.
Copper, iron, lithium, and rare earth metals are some of the minerals which abound in Afghanistan. While these resources have been identified but not fully explored or evaluated, in geological terms, they are considered “undiscovered”. The Soviet Union, during their occupation, did ample research and provided surveys that members of the Afghanistan Geological Survey stored. Moscow had the intention of expropriating these riches. The pullout and the impending collapse of the USSR put an end to those aspirations.
In 2004, following the defeat of the Taliban regime by Afghan resistance and American forces, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) began examining all the available data that their Afghan counterparts had. The USGS began in 2006 to fly flew airborne missions and carry out magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys of Afghanistan. In two months, 70% of Afghanistan was mapped. The findings appear to concur with the Soviet findings.
The estimated copper reserves would place Afghanistan among the world’s top five countries in that category. In iron ore resources, the country is calculated to potentially be within the globe’s top ten nations that possess extractable iron. The work conducted by the USGS was incomplete, as was that of the USSR. Afghan officials believe the amount is greater, and more treasure lies beneath Afghanistan’s soil.
Of all the natural resources that Afghanistan has, perhaps the most seminal and sought after are the rare earth minerals. These set of seventeen metallic elements which are composed of fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table plus scandium and yttrium, are invaluable components to modern living and the nation’s defense.
Military applications that include electronic displays, guidance systems, lasers, aircraft, and radar and sonar systems depend on these minerals for their functioning. Consumer-based technological products such as computer hard drives, cellular telephones, flat-screen monitors and televisions, and electric and hybrid vehicles, are dependent on rare earth minerals. The importance of rare earth elements cannot be understated. Without their properties, the electronic revolution and 21st century technology would come to a standstill.
Afghanistan contains the following rare earth elements: lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, and seams of the precious metals: aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium, which compliment high-tech equipment. It is estimated that this landlocked, multiethnic country has over 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements. Without a doubt, Afghanistan is a prized possession in this sense.
The United States produced in 1993 33% of the world’s rare earth mineral production. China generated 38%. Since 2011, the Asian expansionist communist country produces and controls 97% of the global supply. The Trump administration encouraged domestic production and development by way of favorable tax incentives and subsidies. It remains uncertain what the current Biden-Harris government will do on this issue.
Communist Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met on July 28th, before the American capitulation in Afghanistan, with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the Afghan Taliban Political Commission. The private meeting held in Tianjin, China, produced public sentiments which demonstrates the enormous influence Beijing has over the Taliban.
In a government website publication, the Chinese communist representative stressed that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a fundamentalist group inside Afghanistan which China considers a threat, must be confronted by the Taliban. “The Afghan Taliban”, confirmed the Taliban representative as per the state-run publication, “will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to China”. The spokesman for the terrorist movement now in power in Kabul added that the Taliban “(…) hopes that China will be more involved in Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation process and play a bigger role in future reconstruction and economic development”.
Pakistan, the manufacturer and enabler of the Taliban, could not have done much for the Islamic terrorists, without China’s financial help. All these subversive parties know this well. China’s neocolonialist instrument, the Belt and Road Initiative, will be one way of commanding power in Afghanistan. The legitimacy the Taliban so desperately needs, will be afforded by the Asian communist dictatorship, given its enormous influence in the United Nations and other international organizations.
Exploring and expropriating Afghanistan’s natural resources, particularly its rare earth metals, is already a matter of fact just waiting to happen. China will execute this in the name of “economic development” and “reconstruction”. The Taliban have no choice. They owe their “success” to the Chinese Communist Party. As for the United States, as long as the executive branch is run by Biden-Harris or any other Obama designee, Beijing will have a global field day.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.