Afghanistan Tries to Win Trump Support With Lithium (Voice of America – April 6, 2017)

https://www.voanews.com/

Associated Press – KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The Afghan government is trying to grab the attention of President Donald Trump and gain greater U.S. support by dangling its massive and untouched wealth of minerals, including lithium, the silvery metal used in mobile phone and computer batteries that is considered essential to modern life.

But tapping into that wealth, which also includes coal, copper, rare earths and far more that estimates say could be worth from $1 trillion to $3 trillion, is likely a long way off. Security has worsened in Afghanistan in the past year, with Taliban insurgents seizing territory and inflicting increasing casualties on Afghan forces. The regions with the greatest lithium deposits, for example, are too dangerous to enter.

So far, Trump’s policy on Afghanistan remains unknown. He has said little about America’s longest-running war, beyond saying on the campaign trail that he wishes the United States were not involved in Afghanistan. Last month, the top U.S. military commander called for an increase in American forces to help bring security, a call Kabul enthusiastically backed.

But the White House has not said which direction it will go — toward beefing up the American role, drawing it down further or something else entirely. There are around 8,400 U.S. troops in the country, involved in training Afghan forces and in counter-terrorism operations.

Kabul clearly hopes the promise of mineral wealth will entice Trump into making a greater commitment. “Afghanistan can be an appropriate place for U.S. industry, and specifically the mining sector, to look at opportunities for investment” because so few potential deposits have been mined, said Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, chief adviser to Afghan president on infrastructure, human capital and technology.

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