THE BLOG

Afghan Mineral 'Discovery' Is Fodder for Conspiracy Theories

While the "discovery" of Afghanistan's trillion-dollar mineral deposits may be news to some, it's merely a confirmation of what Afghans already knew.

Fairly extensive geological surveys of Afghanistan have been conducted by the Soviet Union as early as the 1980s, perhaps even earlier. The resultant understanding of Afghanistan's wealth even graced the pages of the country's middle school curriculum, which once boasted about vast reserves of copper, iron, gold, natural gas, coal, and precious and semiprecious stones.

The Pentagon only put a hefty price tag on these unexploited resources, potentially prompting the increasingly skeptical Afghans to ask questions about America's real war motives.

Afghans have long held the view that invaders of their land are motivated at least in part by Afghanistan's rich natural resources. With their best knowledge of history, some from among the mostly illiterate population would muse on why the British would return to the barren mountains of Afghanistan after a snuff-out of their forces in the first Anglo-Afghan War. The resource-hungry Russians came next, incurring heavy losses. And now -- voila!

Afghan explanations about the woeful state of the war effort in their country contrast sharply from what emanates from the White House or DC-based think tanks. Again, skeptics muse: Why is it that with thousands of soldiers, billions of dollars and all of its technological sophistication -- drones, satellites, B52s, infrared imaging, you name it -- has the US failed to capture or kill one man: Osama bin Laden?

And if you put this together with why America may actually be aiding Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, a comprehensive picture emerges: the Americans are prolonging their stay in that country for some ulterior motive.

And the Pentagon, counterpart to the one-time British War Office, just explained why -- it's the minerals.

Of course this may sound outlandish and perhaps even somewhat silly, but the Afghans are not alone. Others also view the announcement as a potential justification for the increasingly unpopular war. Yet others are exploring the possibility of short-term benefits the U.S. can draw from these minerals.

The clumsy timing and tone of this announcement suggests a failure of public relations on Pentagon's part. It has unleashed the Pandora's box of skepticism both at home and abroad.