The transition of global technology from dependence on oil to a dependence on lithium means the world needs Afghanistan more than ever. China, Russia, Turkey and all of Europe need a share of the $1trillion mineral deposits buried beneath its soils. China will soon dominate the extraction of gold and copper there. Two decades of war only hindered efforts to exploit those massive mineral resources. It’s time to try something new.
But British hysteria is palpable. Helmand province is famous for two things. The first being that it is the world’s largest producer of opium, contributing over 40% of the world’s production. Protecting the heroin trade is no great victory. The second is the TAPI natural gas pipeline, which passes through Herat, Farah, Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar. Veterans whose colleagues gave their lives fighting the War on Terror now rage at their political leaders, who they believe have sold them down the river. What was it all for, they now wonder.
Well that is a good question. For sure, that impoverished nation never posed a genuine existential threat to global security. It was a failed state, whose puritanical leaders accidentally caused an economic catastrophe and famine by eradicating the production of opium. Without the invasion, the inevitable civil war initiated by disenfranchised farmers would have ended that regime in under a decade.
Those bankrupt rulers could not possibly have funded global terrorism. For that, you would need to look to that erstwhile ally of the west in the middle east, which provided fifteen of the nineteen alleged hijackers responsible for terrorist attacks in America on 11 September 2001. That nation will remain sacrosanct for as long as the global economy remains dependent on oil production. Once we have planes that run on hydrogen fuel cells, full global adoption of electric vehicles and a transition to renewable energy: then the Arabian peninsula may fade back into obscurity as a backwater of quaint spirituality.
Michael Franti wrote two decades ago: “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you cannot bomb it into peace.” He was right. That’s why former soldiers now stand in parliament to speak of the necessity of patience. A prophetic virtue indeed. Greedy politicians elsewhere weren’t keen on patience though. They thought they could just bomb a nation into submission and make off with its riches. But they misjudged the inhabitants of the land. Turns out they could have just patiently negotiated contracts on mining rights.
Instead, 240,000 are now dead. Fifty-thousand Afghan civilians. Twenty-five thousand Pakistani civilians. Five hundred British soldiers. Refugees number 3.5 million, the internally displaced 2.5 million. The veterans are right to ask: “What was it all for?”
Well half a million people in Pakistan are now addicted to heroin. Three million are addicted in Iran. Afghanistan is now a major methamphetamine producer. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union were interested in extracting copper, natural gas, oil and uranium from the earth of Afghanistan. Others followed suit through the 1990s and 2000s. What a great game. Now it is China’s turn.
Perhaps there are some big-hearted folk that are genuinely concerned about women’s rights and access to education. But I suspect the noisiest of them are more concerned with reinstalling their favourite corrupt politicians with curious connections to mining corporations, who have built splendid mansions in California and Dubai.
What happens next probably depends on how much you want an affordable Tesla Model 3 made in Shanghai. The future is electric.