COMMENTARY: Biden leaves behind more than Americans, weapons in Afghanistan

  • Beyond stranded Americans and military hardware, President Joe Biden is leaving behind an opportunity for China to exploit Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources needed to power the “green” economy. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

As Americans watched in horror at the tragic scene of U.S. Marines losing their lives in Kabul, Afghanistan last week, emotions ran the gamut from anger to frustration and sadness.

A two-decade effort to bring stability to Afghanistan ended in failure and humiliation. Lives were lost. Chaos reigned at the airport. Hopeless efforts were made by many who wanted to leave the country, but couldn’t.

Twenty years after terrorists used Afghanistan to launch the attacks on September 11, the Taliban flag once again flew over Kabul. America’s longest war ended in defeat.

As the last American troops left Kabul this week, we left behind not only our fellow citizens, but also so many people who put their lives on the line to help us. So, too, remained military hardware, with its technology sure to be reverse-engineered by the Taliban and other countries eager to learn how to replicate its might.

Simply put, the blunders of the current administration in its haste to end our involvement in Afghanistan will have consequences for decades.

Also left behind, and now under Taliban rule, are trillions of dollars of mineral resources in the country. Afghanistan is known to have world-class deposits of lithium, copper, coal, gold, mercury and rare earth elements under its surface.

To date, the United States and its allies have been able to keep them untapped, in spite of their value to the “green” energy movement and the massive increases to mine them to vastly increase “green” energy component production. Sadly, the Taliban and their allies will undoubtedly look to quickly exploit this failure as well.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, plans may already be underway for the Taliban to work with China to mine those deposits. Should that business relationship develop, you can bet that neither partner will have qualms about using labor and environmental methods that run counter to accepted practices for much of the world.

Even with U.S.-led sanctions against trade and business dealings with the Taliban in place, there are legal and illegal ways to work around them.

Think that’s a stretch? Remember, China has a more-than-cozy relationship with North Korea. They both have history with bringing desired outcomes to bear — by any means necessary — in an effort to show their might on an international stage.

While China and the Taliban work to bring the mineral deposits to market, the American mining industry is stuck in neutral because of misguided public policy. Efforts by anti-development groups and wealthy ideologues have made the process of permitting and opening a mine well beyond common-sense regulation.

While the U.S. has incredible quantities of nearly every critical mineral and rare earth element that the “green” movement cries for, you would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of prospects and projects not under siege by the eco-left and misguided environmental evangelists.

Whether by spreading fear about potential environmental catastrophes or through foolish efforts to place protecting wildlife above advancing human life, mining opportunities in America are required to run a never-ending, multi-year obstacle course.

In the meantime, the Taliban and China plot their partnership and development of Afghanistan’s mineral riches without hesitation. While China begins to consider how to work around international pressure in doing business with the Taliban, American eco-zealots consider how to keep an American mineral project from moving forward.

And while the Taliban and China strategize how to undermine America’s international leadership, the current administration lends credence to the “leave-it-in-the-ground” movement by placing environmental radicals in leadership positions throughout Washington.

America deserves better. American workers deserve opportunity. Americans shouldn’t ever again see the greatest country in the world subjected to ridicule on an international stage.

Leaving Afghanistan in defeat stings on many levels. Let’s hope the future doesn’t bring anything equivalent — let alone much worse — especially if it will be financed by the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

Rick Whitbeck is the Alaska State Director of Power The Future, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for American energy jobs. Follow him on Twitter @PTFAlaska or contact him at [email protected].

Updated: 
09/01/2021 - 9:13am