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Jacob Heilbrunn

Jacob Heilbrunn

Posted: June 14, 2010 12:06 PM

Obama's Fool's Gold in Afghanistan

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So Afghanistan has overnight turned into the "Saudi Arabia" of precious metals, has it? The Pentagon's asseverations about the lucre contained in miserable Afghanistan testify to its tireless ingenuity in selling the war. But even if Afghanistan does turn out to possess everything the Pentagon claims it does, the sad truth is that precious natural resources are, more often than not, a curse for the Third World nations that harbor them.

A scramble for Afghanistan's resources would simply intensify the tribal warfare that's already taking place in that devastated country. But it's not all that surprising that the Pentagon would float this little PR trial balloon. It isn't simply that the war isn't going well. It's that, according to a fascinating report in the Los Angeles Times by Alex Rodriguez, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence is actually represented on the Taliban leadership council, known as the shura. In other words, our close ally, Pakistan, the recipient of billions in American largess, is actually helping to coordinate the fight against America and its allies in Afghanistan.

This information comes courtesy of the London School of Economics, which has issued a new report written by Matt Waldman, who interviewed nine Taliban commanders. According to Waldman, ""the ISI has representatives on the Shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest level of the movement." He also says that Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari is in on the game: he has met with senior Taliban commanders inside Pakistan and vowed to assist them in their struggle.

For President Obama, the endgame may be looming more quickly than he anticipated. As the military backpedals from attacking Kandahar, his surge has pretty much failed before it even began. Pakistan, convinced that America will bug out, isn't playing footsie with the Taliban; it's actively conniving with them. Meanwhile, Afghan president Hamid Karzai is furiously seeking to cut his own deal with the Taliban before he's ignominiously ousted from office.

It isn't a pretty picture. But it's not one that Obama or the Pentagon or even trillions and trillions in rare minerals will be able to prettify. If the latest reports are anything to go by, America is chasing fool's gold in Afghanistan.