While the Taliban’s 15 year insurgency doesn’t appear any closer to ending, the group has made a surprising move in announcing that they not only endorse efforts to exploit Afghanistan’s natural resources, but are ordering their fighters to defend such projects as “in the national interest.”
This includes some large government projects, including a copper mine and an international gas pipeline. The pledge also raises hope that further projects involving Afghanistan’s substantial natural resources, in particular rare earth elements.
A US study suggested Afghanistan has as much as $1 trillion in natural resources to be exploited, but the nation’s constant states of warfare have made projects trying to extract them virtually impossible. The Taliban’s move suggests that such development could happen independent of the war.
It’s unclear, however, how far this Taliban offer of protection extends. It is unlikely that their view of “the national interest” will allow for projects involving significant foreign investors, particularly from nations involved in the US-led occupation.
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