The Plan to Exploit Afghanistan for Its Resources Is a Really Bad Idea
Mineral resources presently serve as a distraction, creating the false impression that Afghan self-sufficiency can be attained overnight and without hard work or institutional development. Tendering for large concessions should be postponed until Afghanistan has the requisite stability and governance framework to enable a transparent bidding process and equitable distribution of royalties. That end state is contingent upon bringing an end to the nearly sixteen-year Afghan war—a war that can only be resolved through political settlement with the Taliban anchored by a regional diplomatic solution, including not just Pakistan, but also China, Iran and Russia. The Obama administration never fully embraced a diplomatic solution. And no stakeholder in the Trump administration appears to be prioritizing it.
As the Taliban rises, the clock is ticking. Beltway Bandits and Afghan officials—virtually all of whom are dual nationals or married to foreigners, and have one foot out the door—are trying to goad Trump into jumping headfirst into the Afghan quicksand.
Trump must know that there will be no “winning” in Afghanistan. But as the advice he is getting shows, there are many ways to lose.
Image: A labourer takes a break at a coal dump site outside Mazar-i-Sharif, November 6, 2014. Picture taken on November 6, 2014. REUTERS/Anil Usyan.