As the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghan war is marked around the world, looking forward is more important than looking back. As I noted in an earlier post, staggering mistakes have been made over the last decade. While individual Americans and Afghans have performed heroically, the Afghan and American governments – particularly their civilian arms – have performed anemically. And Pakistan’s intelligence service – the ISI – is the single largest impediment to stability in the region.
Looking forward, the advocacy group Global Witness is on the right track. In a statement, it said that Afghanistan’s management of an estimated $3 trillion in copper, Iron, gold, oil, chromite, uranium and rare earths is the key to the country’s future stability.
“The stakes could not be higher,” said Juman Kubba, a Global Witness official. “Get it right and minerals could be the catalyst for peace and prosperity; get it wrong and there’s a massive risk they will be lost to corruption, or form a new axis of instability and conflict.”
After a decade of development efforts driven by short-term political needs in Washington and other western capitals, Afghans and Americans now have an opportunity to achieve the most important ingredient to success in Afghanistan: sustainability. If properly managed, the country’s untapped mineral wealth can fund a robust economy, a strong Afghan army and a viable government.
For decades, if not centuries, Afghans have yearned for one thing more than anything else: the ability to control their own affairs. The country’s strategic location has led great powers to battle for control of Afghanistan. Afghans, as a result, have developed a deep resentment of foreign meddling. The problem goes beyond the American, Russian and British invasions. Afghans are sick of Pakistan, Iran and India using their nation as battleground for their own proxy wars.