On Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan after a suicide car bomber rammed a NATO-led convoy near a major U.S. base in Kandahar. The attack came a day after at least 33 worshipers died when suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in the city of Herat. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. The latest round of violence comes as The New York Times reports that Trump may have found a reason to prolong the nearly 16-year-old war: Afghanistan’s untapped mineral deposits, which could be worth nearly $1 trillion. Trump reportedly discussed Afghanistan’s vast deposits of minerals with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and is considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to meet with mining officials. We speak with Jodi Vittori, senior policy adviser for Global Witness on Afghanistan policy. Jodi spent 20 years in the U.S. military, where she served in several countries, including Afghanistan. She has received numerous military awards, including two Bronze Stars. We also speak with Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history. On Wednesday, two U.S. soldiers died after a suicide car bomber rammed a NATO-led convoy near a major U.S. military base in Kandahar. The attack came a day after at least 33 Afghan worshipers died when suicide bombers attacked a Shiite mosque in the city of Herat. The dead included the father of an Afghan teenage girl who made international headlines recently when she took part in a robotics competition in the United States. The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is intensifying its air war in Afghanistan. During the month of June, the U.S. carried out 389 airstrikes—the highest monthly total in five years. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is seeking to send another 4,000 U.S. troops to join the 8,700 currently in Afghanistan.
This comes as The New York Times reports Trump may have found a reason to prolong the nearly 16-year war: Afghanistan’s untapped mineral deposits, which could be worth nearly a trillion dollars. Trump is being pressured by a billionaire financier and a chemical executive to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan in a bid to exploit the country’s mineral wealth. The Times reports Trump discussed Afghanistan’s vast deposits of metals and rare earth metals with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and is reportedly considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to meet with mining officials.
We’re joined now by two guests. Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare, she has made many trips to Afghanistan, including one earlier this year, has twice been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Jodi Vittori is a senior policy adviser for Global Witness on Afghanistan policy. She’s joining us from Washington, D.C.
Kathy Kelly, let’s begin with you. The casualties only continue to mount. Your response to what’s happening in Afghanistan right now?
KATHY KELLY: Well, it seems that the United States has been exacerbating a war that seems unlikely to change, even if the United States sends 4,000 or many more than that number of troops over to Afghanistan. When they had 100,000 troops, they weren’t able to substantially change the direction, which now has the Afghan government in charge of 60 percent of the districts within Afghanistan, and the Taliban and other warlords in charge of 40 percent of the districts but also commandeering many of the roadways that lead into major cities.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to an interview, when Bill O’Reilly was still on Fox News. It’s an interview with President Trump, who said the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil. Even though he was opposed, he said, to the war in Iraq, once the U.S. was in there, it shouldn’t have left until it took Iraq’s oil, following the 2003 invasion.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I always said take the oil. If you would have taken the oil, there would be no ISIS, because they used that to fuel their growth.
BILL O’REILLY: But if you—if you took the oil, the Iraqi oil, you would have to put in U.S. troops to do that, and then that would have started another round of it.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you would have made a lot of money with the oil, and you would have had assets. And to the victor belong the spoils and all of that. But forget that.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that might be very instructive, Jodi Vittori—you’re a former military soldier—when looking at what President Trump’s intentions are for Afghanistan right now. The New York Times reporting Trump is being pressured by a billionaire financier and a chemical executive to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan in a bid to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth. Can you explain what you found?
JODI VITTORI: Sure. It’s a troubling parallel to the 2012 reports that you just noted out when it comes to Iraq and oil. In the case of Afghanistan, a report this morning that President Trump is deeply troubled that he—he acknowledges that the United States is not winning in Afghanistan. He doesn’t like the strategy that his generals have given him from his national security staff. And for some reason he has leaned towards this sort of vague plan put forward by the head of the private security company DynCorp, Stephen Feinberg, who was a major campaign contributor to the Trump campaign, that somehow the United States would come in, they would send—DynCorp would send in their private security forces, that would somehow control these mining areas, including areas with the mineral lithium in it, which is important for our cellphone batteries and so forth, and somehow extract that, secure it so that other companies could extract that, and—it’s unclear—apparently, take that money to pay back the United States for the invasion of Afghanistan. Obviously, troubling on a conflict of interest level, an ethics level, a human rights, social level. And, frankly, it’s just completely impractical, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Kathy Kelly, when you hear this and read this piece in the Timesabout exploiting Afghanistan for its mineral wealth, and hearing the previous comment about President Trump, even if he says he was supposed to the war in Iraq, "Once you’re there, take their oil," your thoughts?
JODI VITTORI: Obviously—
KATHY KELLY: I think it’s repugnant.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s get Kathy Kelly’s response and then yours, Jodi.
KATHY KELLY: Well, that it’s repugnant for the United States to believe that we somehow should be able to subordinate the rights and the hopes and the possibilities for another country to serve our national interest. We have no right whatsoever to take over resources in Afghanistan. And we’ve already caused so much death and destruction. We should be paying reparations for that.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jodi Vittori, can you talk about the mineral industry and who’s currently benefiting from it in Afghanistan, in the midst of this longest war in U. S. history?
JODI VITTORI: Certainly. In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that Afghanistan, at the time, had up to $1 trillion in minerals in reserve under the ground there. Not all of that would be able to be pulled out economically, and that was at a time when these mineral prices were at their high point. That estimate is certainly not accurate now. Afghanistan is awash in minerals. Just its geography is incredible when it comes to minerals, and possibly natural gas, as well.
But right now, those who are benefiting seem to be primarily groups like the Taliban and groups like the various warlords and corrupt politicians in the country. What we don’t see is the Afghan people normally getting a benefit from this mining. There is actually a tremendous amount of mining in Afghanistan. The German development agency GIZ estimates that about 3 to 6 percent of the population is involved in mining or its upstream or downstream activities. And yet, at the same time, a lot of that is really going into the hands of nefarious characters. The United Nations has estimated that, after narcotics trafficking, the second-largest source of revenue for the Taliban is illegal mining and coring in Afghanistan. And Global Witness has done reports, for example, on the role that lapis plays, both in the hands of illegal armed groups, various corrupt officials in patronage networks and the Taliban itself. So, it’s very, very troubling in the country.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Part 1 of our discussion. We’ll post the rest at democracynow. org. Jodi Vittori, thanks for joining us, from Global Witness on Afghanistan policy, formerly served in South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. And, Kathy Kelly, thanks for joining us, as well.
GUESTS: Kathy Kelly and Jodi Vittori
Originally appeared at Democracynow.org