Afghanistan's Rare Earths and Opium lock in U.S. Troops

Joe Biden is under growing pressure to answer questions about the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  He's under pressure to answer any questions at all, nearing 50 days since his installation without fending inquiries from the press corps. Even his fan club at CNN has noticed. 

The State Corporatist media presents the Afghan options within the narrow sliver of acceptable opinion -- in other words the view of the corporate-funded, tax-exempt foundations such as the Council on Foreign Relations and Chatham House that tell journalists what to think. Writing in Off-Guardian, Binoy Kampmark illustrates just how narrow this range of opinion is: 

The Guardian claims that he is “trapped and has no good choices”. The Wall Street Journal opines that he is being “tested in Afghanistan” with his opposition to “forever wars”. The Washington Post more sensibly suggests that Biden take the loss and “add it to George W. Bush’s record.” 

On the surface that sounds like the big issue: "should I stay or should I go, now". Yet to talk only of terrorism, refugees and displaced persons is to adopt the paradigm of the NGO and UN institutions that are the handmaidens of interventionism. It misses a much bigger picture, summed up in one word: resources. And that is why the U.S. and its British and corporate allies are unlikely to leave any time soon. 

Iraq was invaded in 2003 on the basis of a lie, not a misunderstanding. The parallels go back decades. Even before the CIA, in the 1950s, entered South East Asia covertly, which in turn predated the overt Vietnam War, teams of U.S. geologists were mapping Indochina, knowing how highly the French valued it. Afghanistan's just the same.

Afghan resources are far more interesting than oil. In fact, the country suffers a variant of the oil curse (oil riches tend to hurt diversification, crowding out other businesses, creating over-dependence on one raw material). Afghanistan makes so much money from opium that hydrocarbons can't compete (see below). In addition, rare earths are what makes the corporate mouth water nowadays anyway. 

Mining in Afghanistan has much bigger prospects. Photograph Jerome Starkey/ CC BY-SA 2.0

Smart cities and 'electric everything' demand a exponential increase in mineral mining over the next few decades. If the UN is serious, Western countries will abandon petroleum-fueled cars within a decade and Afghan deposits of copper, neodymium and lithium will be vital.

If the UN were serious in its promotion of "free trade", Afghanistan would be left free to profit from its own mineral resources but that's not how things work. The U.S. and British conspired, over the Afghan border back in 1953, to oust Iran's prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh because they were not prepared to let Iran sell its oil for its own profit.

These two references to the 1950s shows how little has changed. In November 2019, having just won re-election, Bolivia's president Evo Morales was ousted in a US-backed coup. International corporate interests objected to his renationalization of utilities and mining industries. They also had their eye on Bolivia's lithium deposits, essential to the batteries of electric vehicles.

"We will coup whoever we want" — manufacturer of Tesla electric vehicles, Elon Musk.

Afghanistan has found itself with a weak and divided government, through no particular fault of its own. The reach of central government is limited. Many basic social services are provided by the Taliban. Regional governors are not allowed to challenge the externally-backed central government. If they do, they bump up against the realities of ethnic loyalities and Western interests, as the northern governor and Tajik Atta Mohammad Noor found when he was dismissed  in 2017 by Pashtun president, Ashraf Ghani, who leads the Western-propped central government.

It's hard not to imagine that Western intriguing also prevents the emergence of a unifying force in Afghan politics. Corporations like it better this way. The resource-rich countries of Central Asia and the Near East are littered with failed and faction-ridden governments that are easily compromised, from Libya to Iraq.


For reasons of self interest, if nothing else, the senior cadres of military and intelligence would be reluctant to leave. In fact, they wouldn't. They'd just jump into corporate uniforms and stay.

Call it venality, corruption or empire, the generals expect to profit from the countries they invade. Four-star general David Petraeus, who from September 2011 to November 2012 was the director of CIA, and worked in the Balkans for several years, becoming one of the major owners of Balkans telecom sector. He also sits on the board of investors Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).

Whom do we find in Afghanistan but the same man: "It has some of the world's remaining unexploited world class deposits of copper, iron ore and some other fairly exotic minerals. And it has some limited natural gas. The estimates of the worth of these deposits are quite substantial," Petraeus told ABC.

U.S. Geologists Discover $1 Trillion in Mineral Deposits in Afghanistan - ABC News, 2010

Opium, too, figures in the calculation of resources. Not mentioned in the pages of the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, the biggest money spinners are not the ones you read about in the Fortune 500.

A U.S. marine in Helmand province, 2013, photograph by Sgt Pete Thibodeau (public domain).

Follow the money was never more true and leads you to weapons manufacture, the business of war, the eternal business of slavery and sex trafficking, the centuries-long narcotics industry made famous by the Opium Wars, the crossover between the business of licit and illicit drugs, and the oil and gas fields of the hydrocarbon energy business. These are joined by two new sectors: biofuels which require the depopulation of unimaginable hectares of land, as does the mining of rare earth minerals for smart cities.

Opium accounts for more than half Afghan GDP, far outstripping oil. The drugs industry, legal and covert, operates as one big unhappy family.

Again, you won't read about it in the mainstream press, in fact, you'll encounter disinformation such as this article from The Guardian in 2016, Mexican farmers turn to opium poppies to meet surge in US heroin demand encouraging the questionable idea that Mexico is the main source of illicit opium to the U.S. This is a deliberate sleight of hand that distracts the uninformed from the booming production of opium in Afghanistan under the protection of U.S. and British soldiers.

Here's another example from the BBC, Apr 2019: How the US military's opium war in Afghanistan was lost.

"[Afghan heroin] makes up 95% of the market in Europe; 90% of the Canadian market. Perhaps surprisingly, Afghan heroin is reckoned to make up only a tiny fraction of the US market. The US Drug Enforcement Agency claims as little as one per cent of US supply is from Afghanistan. It says virtually all the heroin used in America comes from Mexico and South American countries."

This propaganda tells people what they wish to believe: that the U.S. military would not allow Afghan heroin to poison the American well but sadly, that's now what the record shows. As Gary Webb exposed in his Dark Alliance series, the CIA colluded with mafia drug traffickers who flooded cities with cocaine, while financing its black ops in Central America and Iran. See the late LAPD detective Michael Ruppert confront CIA director John Deutsch

Mexico is not the natural habitat for the opium poppy and anyway is the location of military action and the War on Drugs, most recently described by the U.S.-Mexican academic Oswaldo Zavala in Los Cárteles No Existen.

The American academic Alfred McCoy illustrated back in 1972 the correlation between the black market in opiates and the location of U.S. covert paramilitary and overt military operations internationally in his book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.

In reality, the opium is coming from where it grows in abundance. Even if it wasn't reaching the U.S. that would hardly undermine the business rationale: a drugs business that contributes much of the 1.5 million inmates of the U.S. for-profit prison system; a banking business that props up the U.S. financial system.

One reason HSBC and Deutsche Bank took much of the heat from U.S. prosecutors after the 2008 banking crisis was to give the home team time to rebuild their business, and that includes profiting from criminal money flows. The U.S. banks openly admit they fail to stop money laundering. Analysis of bank flows would reveal the extent of the illicit opium trade in the U.S. and the departments of Treasury, Justice and Commerce, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission likely have this information. See also Bank Shares Slide on Report of Rampant Money Laundering -- US News & World Report, Sep 2020


As to the other players on Team America, the infrastructure to control the trade sits slap bang in the middle of the main trade routes, such as Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

Other obvious places to look are the known trafficking routes for people, which pass through the Balkans which is also under heavy U.S. commercial influence. See the comment above about who owns the Balkan telecoms network. The tail numbers of planes used by the State Department and the CIA out of the Balkans for purposes believed to include rendition matched with those used on occasion by Jeffrey Epstein who we know was involved in people trafficking. 

One might wonder why, if the heroin is getting through, the people who operate the toll booth and the schlagbaum prefer to regulate the flows rather than to stop them.

As to the people, the architect of the U.S. strategy in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Pakistan was the late Richard Holbrooke. More than anyone he knew the whys and wherefores whereby Congress put its support behind a policy built around the expansion of the opium sector.

Fascinatingly, Holbrooke wore another hat in the legal drugs sector, as a mover and shaker in the world of HIV relief, which channels billions of dollars of taxpayers money through private, tax-exempt foundations like those of the Clintons and Bill Gates. The research site Corey's Digs estimates the value of cash flows under the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) at $90 Billion.

At the center of this, until his untimely death in 2010, stood the architect of the Afghan policy. In 2006, he was reported by the Wall Street Journal as saying:

“I think what you’re seeing is the beginning of what you might call the first super NGO…with overlapping interests and a great deal of resources,” said former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke, now president and CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS in New York City.”

In the strange world of the United Nations and Non-Governmental Organizations, donations pledged by nation states end up in the hands of "philanthropists" whose own foundations invest in for-profit research by scientists and often hold the resulting patents. 

Somehow the World Health Organization — which is not a government body but an agency whose biggest private funder is Bill Gates — has a chief, Tedros, installed by the Clintons and Rockefellers, who in turn wields the power to influence governments to open the sluice gates. On the WHO’s say-so, governments release a flood of taxpayer cash to corporations (big pharma) or to charities (run by foundations linked to those corporations). 

These bodies are the same interests driving the Great Reset and the resilient, Smart Cities programme: the interdependent, surveilled domains of technocracy, occupied by a residual population of digitally-looped residents. This high tech Utopia will only viable thorough an imperial-colonial relationship with countries like Afghanistan that will supply the metals and minerals to make the dream "sustainable".