How Afghanistan Can Escape the Resource Curse
A big dig will soon be coming to Afghanistan. (Tim Winborne / Courtesy Reuters)
Until just a few weeks ago, serious talk about an Afghan economy based on natural resources seemed premature. But as Kabul inks more mining deals with international investors -- it awarded two major tenders at the end of 2011 -- and as NATO continues its drawdown of international troops, natural resources are shaping up to serve as the cornerstone of sustainable development there. This raises an unavoidable and possibly tragic question: Considering the country's lack of infrastructure and its rampant corruption, will Afghanistan become yet another data point in the literature on underdeveloped countries that fall victim to the resource curse?
The possibility is real. Officials in both Washington and Kabul claim that the country's mineral wealth is worth as much as $3 trillion. Experts have suspected Afghanistan's resource potential for decades, and U.S. Geological Survey fieldwork conducted between 2009 and 2011 confirmed the existence of significant copper, iron ore, gold, lithium, rare earths, and mineral fuel resources such as coal, oil, and gas, and possibly even uranium...