The Real Impact of Afghanistan Might be Underground

The Afghanistan crisis has created plenty of issues for American foreign policy, but among them is that the natural resources are no longer fully available to the US. That might end up being the most essential issue in the long-term. In fact, CNN Business reports that Afghanistan has mineral deposits worth over $1 trillion. That includes iron, copper, and gold, plus other rare earth metals. The previous Afghan government actually estimated such deposits are worth three times that. Most importantly, though, is that Afghanistan contains the world’s largest deposits of lithium, an essential ingredient for batteries, which need to be produced en masse as the world pushes sustainable energy. However, lithium is an extremely limited resource globally. Scientist Rod Schoonover, founder of the Ecological Futures Group, said “Afghanistan is one of the regions richest in traditional precious, but also the metals for the emerging economies of the 21st century,” which are set to be based on green energy. But who gets those metals is in the air. “It’s a big uncertainty,” said Schoonover. This’ll be incredibly prosperous for the Taliban: while the group doesn’t have the resources needed to mine for lithium, they can sell the rights to mine the land to other nations, especially China. Already, the Taliban has sold the mining rights for some of the mineral-rich land of the nation to Chinese companies, many with close ties to Beijing. Naturally, the CCP-backed Global Times reported that Chinese investment is already “widely accepted” in Afghanistan. The Taliban doesn’t have any other financial options. They’re not getting any money from outside, and the former president took the treasury with him to Dubai. China has eyed the strong potential of the region for decades. And China’s timing has never been better: as demand grows for lithium-ion batteries in the West, the deficit to China is only growing (even as nations invest millions to cut it). If China can get the world’s largest lithium deposits, it can hold the supply further over the heads of the US. Imagine the irony: coal-powered China raking in a fortune from an America going green. 

~Owen Johnson ’23

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