Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

Recommended Reading  

Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story

by Eliz­a­beth Gould and Paul Fitzger­ald
City Lights Pub­lish­ers (Jan­u­ary 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0872864944
ISBN-13: 978–0872864948
300 pages.

Despite dec­la­ra­tions made by some in pow­er, the war in Afghanistan is far from over — in fact, the tur­bu­lence is esca­lat­ing. Sev­en years after 9/11, the Tal­iban con­tin­ue to regroup, attack, and claim influ­ence over most of the region.

Invis­i­ble His­to­ry presents a fresh, com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of Afghanistan’s polit­i­cal his­to­ry that begins at the roots of trib­al lead­er­ship and ulti­mate­ly empha­sizes our cur­rent polit­i­cal moment and the impact of ongo­ing U.S. mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion. Fitzger­ald and Gould tell the real sto­ry of how the U.S. came to be in Afghanistan and what we can expect next.

PAUL FITZGERALD and ELIZABETH GOULD, a hus­band and wife team, began their expe­ri­ence in Afghanistan in 1981 for CBS News and pro­duced a doc­u­men­tary, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, for PBS. In 1983 they returned for ABC Night­line and con­tributed to the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They have con­tin­ued to research, write and lec­ture about Afghanistan his­to­ry and U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy since.

Vis­it invisiblehistory.com for more infor­ma­tion.


One comment for “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story”

  1. Here’s the lat­est reminder that Afghan peo­ple are sit­ting on a giant vault of trea­sures and rich­es:

    Dis­cov­er News
    $1 Tril­lion in Rare Min­er­als Found Under Afghanistan
    Sep 5, 2014 09:20 AM ET // by Charles Choi, Live­Science

    Despite being one of the poor­est nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sit­ting on one of the rich­est troves of min­er­als in the world, val­ued at near­ly $1 tril­lion, accord­ing to U.S. sci­en­tists.

    Afghanistan, a coun­try near­ly the size of Texas, is loaded with min­er­als deposit­ed by the vio­lent col­li­sion of the Indi­an sub­con­ti­nent with Asia. The U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) began inspect­ing what min­er­al resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Tal­iban from pow­er in the coun­try in 2004. As it turns out, the Afghanistan Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey staff had kept Sovi­et geo­log­i­cal maps and reports up to 50 years old or more that hint­ed at a geo­log­i­cal gold mine.

    In 2006, U.S. researchers flew air­borne mis­sions to con­duct mag­net­ic, grav­i­ty and hyper­spec­tral sur­veys over Afghanistan. The mag­net­ic sur­veys probed for iron-bear­ing min­er­als up to 6 miles (10 kilo­me­ters) below the sur­face, while the grav­i­ty sur­veys tried to iden­ti­fy sed­i­ment-filled basins poten­tial­ly rich in oil and gas. The hyper­spec­tral sur­vey looked at the spec­trum of light reflect­ed off rocks to iden­ti­fy the light sig­na­tures unique to each min­er­al. More than 70 per­cent of the coun­try was mapped in just two months.

    The sur­veys ver­i­fied all the major Sovi­et finds. Afghanistan may hold 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. For instance, the Khan­neshin car­bon­atite deposit in Afghanistan’s Hel­mand province is val­ued at $89 bil­lion, full as it is with rare earth ele­ments.

    “Afghanistan is a coun­try that is very, very rich in min­er­al resources,” Jack Medlin, a geol­o­gist and pro­gram man­ag­er of the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey’s Afghanistan project, told Live Sci­ence. “We’ve iden­ti­fied the poten­tial for at least 24 world-class min­er­al deposits.” The sci­en­tists’ work was detailed in the Aug. 15 issue of the jour­nal Sci­ence.

    In 2010, the USGS data attract­ed the atten­tion of the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense’s Task Force for Busi­ness and Sta­bil­i­ty Oper­a­tions (TFBSO), which is entrust­ed with rebuild­ing Afghanistan. The task force val­ued Afghanistan’s min­er­al resources at $908 bil­lion, while the Afghan gov­ern­men­t’s esti­mate is $3 tril­lion.

    Over the past four years, USGS and TFBSO have embarked on dozens of excur­sions in the war zone to col­lect and ana­lyze min­er­al sam­ples to con­firm the aer­i­al find­ings.

    “Per­form­ing an assess­ment of min­er­al resources in Afghanistan is not like going out in the Unit­ed States and doing nor­mal field work,” Medlin said. “What becomes very, very obvi­ous in Afghanistan is the huge amount of pre-plan­ning that has to take place in order to vis­it any site in that coun­try, such as who is going to pro­vide secu­ri­ty and how much secu­ri­ty is need­ed. You also have to plan how you are actu­al­ly going to get to some place, as for most of the sites in Afghanistan, you can­not dri­ve there — our work involved heli­copters, and for our safe­ty, we could­n’t be on the ground very long to get sam­ples.”

    The researchers’ work has helped devel­op what are essen­tial­ly trea­sure maps that let min­ing com­pa­nies know what min­er­als are there, how much is there, and where they are, all to attract bids on the rights to the deposits. The Afghan gov­ern­ment has already signed a 30-year, $3 bil­lion con­tract with the Chi­na Met­al­lur­gi­cal Group, a state-owned min­ing enter­prise based in Bei­jing, to exploit the Mes Aynak cop­per deposit, and award­ed min­ing rights for the coun­try’s biggest iron deposit to a group of Indi­an state-run and pri­vate com­pa­nies.

    “These resources pro­vide the poten­tial for Afghanistan to devel­op its econ­o­my, to cre­ate jobs and build infra­struc­ture, as it goes into the future,” Medlin said.

    The min­er­al rich­es could lift Afghanistan out of pover­ty and fight crime and ter­ror­ism, said Said Mirzad, co-coor­di­na­tor of the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey’s Afghanistan pro­gram.

    “Ter­ror­ists in Afghanistan exploit­ed the mis­ery of the local pop­u­la­tion,” Mirzad said. “If you give the pop­u­la­tion jobs, if they could bring bread to the table, if they had some­thing to defend, then the ter­ror­ists, who are very few in num­ber, won’t have sway.”

    How­ev­er, devel­op­ing a min­ing indus­try in Afghanistan faces major chal­lenges. “One of the biggest chal­lenges is secu­ri­ty,” Medlin said. “Anoth­er chal­lenge is the lack of infra­struc­ture. We’re talk­ing about access to ener­gy, which is required to devel­op mines. We’re talk­ing access to roads, rail­roads and so forth. We’re also talk­ing about access to water, which is need­ed in most min­ing oper­a­tions. It’s all a big chal­lenge, but it’s doable. It won’t hap­pen overnight, but it’s doable.”


    And here’s the lat­est reminder that those rich­es are cursed:

    For­eign Pol­i­cy
    The South Asia Chan­nel
    Does Afghanistan’s New Min­ing Law Ben­e­fit Its Mafias?

    BY Lynne O’Donnell
    SEPTEMBER 3, 2014

    After years of delay, Afghanistan’s par­lia­ment final­ly passed a new min­ing law, the Law on Min­ing 2014. On Aug. 16, Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai signed the law into being. Yet experts say the law lacks safe­guards against cor­rup­tion and is like­ly to facil­i­tate the creep­ing con­trol of the sec­tor by armed groups, oli­garchs, and monop­o­lies that could threat­en the state.

    Accord­ing to Afghan, Amer­i­can, and Sovi­et-era geo­log­i­cal stud­ies, Afghanistan has $3 tril­lion worth of nat­ur­al resources: petro­chem­i­cals account for two-thirds of that total, while min­er­als, includ­ing gold, sil­ver, cop­per, iron ore, a range of minor met­als, and rare earths, mar­ble, and gems account for $1 tril­lion.

    The sec­tor has long been pro­mot­ed as the gov­ern­men­t’s future rev­enue stream, and the Unit­ed States has been tout­ing it for years as the obvi­ous replace­ment for the mil­i­tary and for­eign aid that poured into the coun­try after 2001.

    At a self-con­grat­u­la­to­ry cer­e­mo­ny at Kab­ul’s Inter­con­ti­nen­tal Hotel the day after Karzai signed the law, min­is­ters lined up to tell assem­bled guests — includ­ing ambas­sadors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of donor coun­tries — that Afghanistan now has a min­ing law that con­forms to inter­na­tion­al best prac­tices. Fol­low­ing the lead of the min­is­ter for mines and petro­le­um, Moham­mad Akbar Barakzai, they praised its empha­sis on trans­paren­cy, account­abil­i­ty, secu­ri­ty, and gov­er­nance; its respect for the envi­ron­ment and indige­nous peo­ple. Poten­tial investors, nation­al and inter­na­tion­al, could have con­fi­dence in the effi­ca­cy of the law, they said.

    While the Karzai admin­is­tra­tion cel­e­brat­ed the law, oth­ers expressed con­cern. The dis­sent­ing voice, accord­ing to a record of the speech­es that I saw, came from a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Extrac­tive Indus­tries Trans­paren­cy Ini­tia­tive (EITI), who brave­ly raised the neg­a­tive aspects of the new law, includ­ing secre­cy of con­tracts.

    Stephen Carter of Glob­al Wit­ness, a min­ing indus­try stan­dards advo­ca­cy group, echoed this crit­i­cism, telling me that: “Trans­paren­cy over con­tracts and own­er­ship, strong rules for open and fair bid­ding, and com­plaint mech­a­nisms that local com­mu­ni­ties can actu­al­ly use are [...] the first things that should have been includ­ed in the law if the Afghan gov­ern­ment and its inter­na­tion­al part­ners are seri­ous about avoid­ing the very real threat of nat­ur­al resources fuelling con­flict and cor­rup­tion.”

    This issue raised alarm bells when the law was in draft form, prompt­ing groups such as EITI, Integri­ty Watch Afghanistan (IWA), and Glob­al Wit­ness to lob­by min­is­ters for changes that would bring the leg­is­la­tion in line with inter­na­tion­al stan­dards.

    Glob­al Wit­ness even com­mis­sioned a com­pre­hen­sive study of the draft law, and engaged indus­try experts to pin­point weak­ness­es and make spe­cif­ic rec­om­men­da­tions. Trans­paren­cy, secu­ri­ty, and ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship were among the many areas the ensu­ing report high­light­ed as prob­lem­at­ic.

    “The law is silent on secu­ri­ty issues, but there is a real dan­ger of min­ing sup­port­ing ille­gal armed groups,” it said. In a ref­er­ence to IWA research that found the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in Khas Kunar, in the east­ern bor­der province of Kunar, were mak­ing mil­lions from smug­gling chromite — used in steel mak­ing — into Pak­istan, the report not­ed: “The dan­ger in Afghanistan is clear from exam­ples like the ille­gal min­ing car­ried out by Afghan Local Police forces in Khas Kunar — forces which have been accused of human rights abus­es and which have cre­at­ed ten­sions between local com­mu­ni­ties.”

    A lack of trans­paren­cy, allow­ing details of own­er­ship and involve­ment of pub­lic ser­vants in min­ing con­tracts to remain con­fi­den­tial was also a prob­lem, it said. “The law [...] would be great­ly strength­ened if it required pub­li­ca­tion of con­tracts and of the true, ‘ben­e­fi­cial’ own­er­ship of a license hold­er or appli­cant — two basic and vital mea­sures against cor­rup­tion.”

    For some, it appears that the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty has used the poten­tial for nat­ur­al resources rev­enues as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for set­ting a dead­line for with­draw­al from Afghanistan. One source with long diplo­mat­ic and bureau­crat­ic expe­ri­ence in Kab­ul, said: “It’s a case of any law will do as long as it’s a law. Then they can tick that box and go; job done.”

    It is not so clear, how­ev­er, that Afghanistan can afford to sim­ply tick that box.

    The Tal­iban already sup­ple­ment the tens of mil­lions of dol­lars they earn annu­al­ly from opi­um pro­duc­tion with income from ille­gal mar­ble min­ing. A report by the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil in June said that Tal­iban con­trol of onyx mar­ble min­ing in Hel­mand province alone earned it at least $10 mil­lion a year. Ille­gal min­ing in Hel­mand and Kan­da­har was enabling some Tal­iban out­fits to become inde­pen­dent of the cen­tral com­mand, it said, high­light­ing a dan­ger­ous devel­op­ment.

    IWA also found that cross-bor­der mafias are thriv­ing as mili­tias such as the ALP — set up in 2010 to fight the Tal­iban in remote regions — take con­trol of var­i­ous mines. These groups are expect­ed to soon begin fight­ing each oth­er to con­sol­i­date their posi­tions.

    This bat­tle for con­trol “may con­sign the coun­try to a pro­longed war,” Javed Noorani, for­mer­ly of IWA and an expert on the resources sec­tor, told me recent­ly.


    So why, Noorani says he wants to know, did the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty back a law that will only ben­e­fit a “min­ing mafia” at a time when Afghanistan is in such des­per­ate need of rule of law and rev­enues to fund its post-war devel­op­ment?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 5, 2014, 3:08 pm

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