The Best Defense

Minerals in Afghanistan? Mais oui!

The New York Times's breathless coverage of minerals in Afghanistan was greeted with chuckles not only by FP's Blake Hounshell but by old Afghan hands. Here John Stuart Blackton, who has shaken more Helmand River sand out of his shorts than most Americans in Afghanistan have walked on, provides some background. By the way, before running USAID in Afghanistan, John attended Stephens College of Delhi-as did Pakistan's Gen. Zia.

By John Stuart Blackton
Best Defense Afghan natural resources editor

The " discovery" of Afghanistan's minerals will sound pretty silly to old timers.  When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970's the USG,  the Russians, the World Bank, the UN and others were all  highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposts.  The Russian geological service was all over the North in the 60's and 70's. 

Cheap ways of moving the ore to ocean ports has always been the limiting factor.  The Russians were looking at a northern rail corridor.

Take a look at this little bibliography of Afghan mineral assessments.  This one is mostly Russian, but pre-dates the DoD/USG "discovery" period by 30 years.  In my day we did a joint USG/Iranian study of a potential rail line from Afghanistan to several of the Iranian rail hubs.  This was predicated on mineral exploitation in a way that would thwart the Russian's northern rail corridor plans. 

In the early 70's the USG had an old FDR New-Deal planner/economist/brains-truster   - Bob Nathan - working with the Afghan Ministry of Plan to work out a fifty year mineral exploitation program.  When the Russians took over they picked up Bob's plans and extended them.  So this is anything but a "new discovery".  

Low cost, long haul transport infrastructure remains the constraint.  The Louis Berger "four inches of asphalt  on the old Ring Road" doesn't do it.

Bibliography

Drummond, C. (1841) On the mines and mineral resources of Northern Afghanistan. Journal of the Asiat. Society Bengal, Calcutta, 1841, 10: 74-93.

Furon, R. (1924) Les ressources minières de l'Afghanistan. Rev. Sci, Paris, 1924: 62: 313.

Momji, G.S. and Chaikin, S.N. (1960) Iron ores of Afghanistan. Kabul, DGMS, 1960.

Maiorov, A.N., Suderkin, A.I., and Krepoy, M.E. (1965) Report by the Survey and Prospecting Team on the results obtained in 1963-1964 at the lapis-lazuli occurrences of Afghanistan. Kabul, Rec. Off., DGMS, 1965.

Malyarov, A.N., Suderkin, A.I., and Krepov, N.E. (1965) Report on the results of prospecting for and exloration of lapis-lazuli carried out in Afghanistan in 1963-1964. Kabul, DGMS, 1965.

Narodniy, V.M. and Shwarkov, S.L. (1965) Report on the reslts of survey and prospecting for beryl carried out in 1963-64 in the eastern part of Afghanistan with the reserves assessment of the Darrahe Pech rare metal-bearing pegmatite deposit. Kabul, Rec. Off. DCMS, 1965.

Khasanov, R.L., Plotnikov, G.I., Bayazitov, R.A., Zamaraev, G.N., Trifonov, A.I., and Sayapin, V.I. (1967) Report on the results of revision and assessment of copper, lead, zinc, gold occurrences carried out in 1965-1966. Kabul Rec. Off. DGMS, 1967.

Mikhailov, K.Ya., Moraliov, V.M., Perfiliev, Yu.S., and Chalian, M.A. (1969) The bauxite potential of the Mesozoic deposits in the southern part of the Afghano-Tadjik Depression. Razvedka i okhrana nedr, 1969, No. 7.

Dronov, V.I., Kalimulin, S.M., Kabaov, O.N., Kotchetkov, A.Ya., Zelensky, E.D., Chistyakov, A.N., and Svezhentsov, V.P. (1970) The geology and minerals of the western part of Central Afghanistan (Report of the Herat Team on the work in 1969). Kabul, DGMS, 1970.

Karapetov, S.S., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Kotchetov, A.Ya., Semionov, Yu.G., and Gorelov, A.I. (1970) The geology and minerals of the eastern part of Central Afghanistan. Kabul, DGMS, 1970.

Denikayev, Sh.Sh., Feoktistov, V.P., Pyzhyanov, I.V., Adjruddin, A., Narbaev, Sh.N., and Konev, Yu.M. (1971) The geology and minerals of the southern part of East Afghanista. Kabul, DGMS, 1971.

Denikayev, Sh.Sh., Feoktistov, V.P., Pyzhyanov, I.V., Adjruddin, A.A., Narbaev, Sh.N., and Konev, Yu.M. (1971) The geology and minerals in the south part of Eastern Afghanistan (Report of the Kabul team on the work in 1970). Kabul Rec. Off. DGMS, 1971.

Dovgal, Yu.M., Chalian, M.A., Nagliov, V.S., Diomin, A.N., Vaulin, V.A., Belitch, A.I., Sonin, I.I., Kononykhin, E.T., Zharikhin, K.C., Maksimov, N.P., Skvortsov, N.S., and Kharitonov, A.P. (1971) Geology and minerals in the south-eastern part of Central Afghanistan (Report on survey, scale 1:200,000, carried out in 1967-1970). Kabul Rec. Off. DGMS, 1971.

Litvinenko, K.I., Parfionov, Yu.I. (1971) Report on the results of geological prospecting for and evaluaton of mercury occurrences carried out in 1970. Kabul, DGMS, 1971.

Litvinenko, K.I., Rul'kovsky, M.F., and Koshelev, Yu.M. (1971) Report by the Kundalyan Party on the reslts of geological prospecting for and exploration of copper occurrences carried out in 1969-1970. Kabul, DGMS, 1971.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Mirzad, S.H., Dronov, V.I., Kazikhani, A.R., Salah, A.S., and Teleshev, G.I. (1972) Mineral resources of Afghanistan (A explanatory note to the Map of Mineral Deposits and occurrences of Afghanistan, scale: 1:1,000,000), Kabul, DGMS, 1972.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Mirzad, S.H., Dronov, V.I., Kazikhani, A.R., Salah, A.S., and Teleshev, G.I. (1972) Mineral resources of Afghanistan. Geology and Mineral Resources of Afghanistan. Print. Kabul Times, Kabul, 1973, Ed. 1.

Denikayev, Sh.Sh., Feoktistov, V.P., Rossovsky, L.N., and Adjruddin, A. (1972) The geology and minerals of the northern part of East Afghanistan (Report of the Kabul party on the work in 1971). Kabul, DGMS, 1972.

Dronov, V.I., Kalimulin, S.M., Sbortshchikov, I.M., Svezhentsov, V.P., Chistyakov, A.N., Zelensky, E.D., and Cherepov, P.C. (1972) Geology and minerals of north Afghanistan (parts of sheets 400-II and 500-I, Kaisor-Hari Rod interfluve). Kabul Rec. Off. DGMS, 1972.

Dronov, V.I., Karapetov, S.S., Kalimulin, S.M., Kotchetkev, A.Ya., Sonin, .I., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Svezhentsov, V.P., Semionov, Yu.G. (Editos: V.M. Chmyriov and S.H. Mirzad)(1972). Geological map of central and south-west Afghanistan, scale 1:500,000. Printed in Cartographic Institute. Kabul, 1972.

Kafarskiy, A.Kh., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Pyzhyanov, I.V., Achilov, G.Sh., Gorelov, A.I., Bezulov, G.M., and Gazanfari, S.A. (1972) Geology and minerals of the Western Hendukush and the eastern part of the Bande-Turkestan (parts of sheets 500-I, 500-II). Kabul, Rec. Off. DGMS, 1972.

Litvinenko, K.I., Parfionov, Yu.I., and Zastoin, A.I. (1972) Report on the results of prospecting for and assessment of mercury occurrences carried out in 1971. Kabul, Rec. Off. DCMS, 1972.

Dronov, V.I. (1973) Generalized stratigraphic columns to the Geological Map of Central and South-Western Afghanistan, Scale 1:50 000. Printed Kabul Times, Kabul, 1973, 2 sheets.

Dronov, V.I., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Kotchetkov, A.Ya., Karapetov, S.S., Kalimulin, S.M., ad Sonin, I.I. (1973) The geology and minerals of Central and South-West Afghanistan. Kabul Rec. Off. DGMS, 1973.

Gumerov, L.G. (1973) A preliminary report on prospecting for chrisotile-asbestos carried out by the Non-Metalliferous party in 1970-1972 and on further trend of the work. Kabul, DGMS, 1973.

Kabakov, O.N. (1973) Review of the tin occurrences of Afghanistan (Summary report by prospecting and evaluation party on the work in 1970-1972). Kabul, DGMS, 1973.

Kononov, O.V., Slavin, V.I., and Atikulla, S. (1973) Recent volcanoes and aragonite deposits in South-Western Afghanistan. Thes. Rep. V knige: I Nauchno-metodicheskaya konferentsiya, Ku i. KPI. Kabul, 1973: 15-16.

Filippov, O.I. (1974) Report on the results of prospecting and exploration for mica-muscovite in Afghanistan carried out in 1972-1974. kabul, DMS, 1974.

Kafarskiy, A.Kh., Averianov, V.B., and Burel, M.P. (1974) Geology and minerals of the Afghan Pamir (a part of sheet 300-III), Kabul Rec. Off. GS, 1974.

Kiriohek, V.S., Logatchev, V.P., and Kosarez, N.E. (1974) Report by the Rasul prospecting and exploration party on the prospecting for tin carried out in 1972-1973. Kabul, DGMS, 1974.

Kornev, L.E. and Arvanitaki, S.E. (1974) Report on the reslts of prospecting and evaluation of mercury occurrences carried out in 1972-1973. Kabul, DGMS, 1974.

Orlov, G.A., Sloboda, G.S., Eriomenko, C.K., Zhdan, A.V., Matveev, P.S., Gauwari, S. (1974) Report by the Jigdalek Team on prospecting for rubies in 1973-1974. Kabul, Rec. Off. DGMS, 1974.

Chmyriov, V.M. (1975) The main features of tin mineralization in Afghanistan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the 3rd Scientific Conference held in Ku and KPI, Kabul, 1975: 74-75.

Chmyriov, V.M. and Litvinenko, K.I. (1975) Localization features of mercury mineralization in Afghanistan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the 3rd Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1975: 75-78.

Chmyriov, V.M. and Rossovsky, L.N. (1975) Localization features of rare-metal pegmatite fields of Afghanisan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the 3rd Scientific Conference held in the KU and KPI, Kabul, 1975: 72-74.

Eriomenko, C.K., Vkhter, B.Ya., Chmyriov, V.M., and Khamidi Khabi bulah (1975) Volcanic Quaternary carbonatite complex in Afghanistan. Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR: 223, 2 pp.

Kafarskiy, A.Kh., Averianov, V.B., Kolesnichenko, V.A., Burel, M.P. and Achlov, G.Sh. (1975) The geology and minerals of the West Hendukush parts of map sheets 200-II, 500-III, 500-IV). Kabul, DGMS, 1975.

Kafarskiy, A.Kh., Averianov, V.B., Kolesnichenko, V.A., Burel, M.P. and Achlov, G.Sh. (1975) Geology and minerals of the Western Badakhshan and northern flanks of the Western Hendukush (parts of sheets 200-II, 500-III, IV). Kabul, Rec. Off. DGMS, 1973.

Kornev, L.E., Zhdan, A.V., Orlov, G.A., Mironov, Y.Yu., Matveev, P.S., Tsoolov, G.S., and Sliozov, V.A. (1975) Report by the Taywara and Kharnak teams on prospecting for mercury in 1973-74. Kabul Rec. Off., 1975.

Chmyriov, V.M., Abdullah, Sh., Dronov, V.I., Kafarsky, A.Kh., Salah, A.S., and Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F. (1976) Geological Map of Afghanistan. Abstracts Himalayan Geology Seminar, New Delhi, 1976.

Chmyriov, V.M., Dronov, V.I., Kafarsky, A.Kh., Salah, A.S., and Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F. (1976) Geological map of Afghanistan. 'Abstracts Himalayan Geology Seminar', New Delhi, 1976.

Chmyriov, V.M., Kafarsky, A.Kh., Abdullah, Sh., Dronov, V.I., and Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F. (1976) Tectonic zoning of Afghanistan. Abstracts, Himalayan Geology Seminar, New Delhi, 1976.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., and Azimi, N. (1976) Ore formations of Afghanistan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the IVth Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1976: 62-63.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Azimi, N., and Giroval, M. (1976) Metallogenic provinces of Afghanistan. Thes. Rep. V knige: IV Nauchno-metodicheskaya konferentsiya, KU i KPI, Kabul, 1976: 57-58.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Azimi, N., and Giroval, M. (1976) Metallogenic zoning of Afghanistan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the IVth Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1976: 57-58.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., and Giroval, T. (1976) Metallogenic epochs of Afghanistan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the IVth Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1976: 61-62.

Gumerov, L.G., Yorov, Z., Kazikhani, A. (1976) Chrisotile-asbestos deposits of Afghanistan. Izv. Ac. Sc. USS, 1976, ser. geol. No. 4.

Kotchetkov, A.Ya. (1976) Some features of metallogeny of Central and Western Afghanistan. Izv. VUZ-ov, Geologiya i Razvedka, 1976, No.4.

Chmyriov, V.M. and Azimi, N.A. (1977) The new uranium and rare-earth mineralization type of the Mediterranean Belt (Afghanistan). Theses of reports. -In: Bulletin of the V-th Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1977: 55-56.

Chmyriov, V.M. and Azimi, N.A. (1977) Telethermal mineral deposits of Afghanistan. Theses of reports. In: Bulletin of the V-th Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1977: 57-58.

Chmyriov, V.M. and Azimi, N.A. (1977) The genetic types and ore formations of copper deposits of Afghanistan. Theses of reports. -In: Bulletin of the V-th Scientific Conference held in KU and KPI, Kabul, 1977: 5.

Chmyriov, V.M., Azimi, N.A., Dronov, V.I., Slavin, V.I., Kafarsky, A.Kh., and Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F. (1977) The ain geological features of Afghanistan. Izv. AN SSSR. Seriya geol. 1977 (2): 29-48.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Dronov, V.I., and Kafarsky, A.Kh. (1977) Geology and minerals of Afghanistan. Kabul Rec. Off. DGMS, 1977.

Chmyriov, V.M. (1978) Geological features and metallogenic zoning of Afghanistan. Avtoreferat kad. Dissert., Vladivostok, 1978: 29.

Chmyriov, V.M. (1978) Peculiarities of the geology and principles of metallogenic zoning of Afghanistan. Synopsis of thesis of candidate disertat., Vladivostok, USSR, 1978: 1-29.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Abdullah, Sh., Giroval, T., Dronov, V.I., Kafarsky, A.Kh., Kornev, L.E., Lyubimov, B.K., Maywand, K., Malarov, E.P., and Sokolova, L.V. (1978) Map of mineral deposits and occurrences of Afghanistan. Published by Leningrad Map Reproduction Plant at the Ministry of Geology of the USSR, 1978, 1 map sheets.

Chmyriov, V.M., Stazhilo-Alekseev, K.F., Abdullah, Sh., Giruval, M., Dronov, V.I., Kafarsky, A.Kh., Kornev, L.E., Lynbimov, B.K., Maiwand, M.K., Malyarov, E.P., and Sokolova, L.V. (1978) Map of Mineral Resources of Afghanistan, scale 1:500,000. Printed Lenigrad Cartogr., Ministry of Geology, USSR 1978, 19 sheets.

Abdullah, S.H. and Chmyriov, V.M. (1980) Geology and mineral resources of Afghanistan.

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The Best Defense

The unraveling: Don’t look now, but somebody is whacking the Sons of Iraq

A friend in Iraq writes:

The Sahwa movement is in real trouble, and that means trouble for Iraq's security. For the past few months and with growing frequency as of late, Sahwa leaders and rank and file members have been the targets of sophisticated assassinations. Some have been killed by gunmen armed with silenced weapons and others by bombs planted on their cars or homes. This violence is not random. These are targeted attacks aimed at a critical group within Iraq's social and security fabric. And the government doesn't seem to be doing much to stop it.

For background, the Sahwa -- or Awakening -- Movement, began in al-Anbar province in late 2005 when a Sunni tribe on the Syrian border got into a turf war with a neighboring al Qaeda-allied group. The tribe ran a profitable smuggling operation across the border, and its members decided working with U.S. forces (who presumably overlooked the smuggling) would get them the weapons and training they needed to clear their territory.

The idea caught on, and by 2008 there were a total of over 100,000 Sahwa forces -- also known as Sons of Iraq -- in nine of Iraq's most dangerous provinces. Many of these SOIs were drawn from the ranks of the very Sunni insurgents they were tasked by the U.S. with rounding up, an arrangement that made them highly effective but won them a long list of enemies. And of course it was impossible to ensure that every SOI had actually severed ties with the insurgency -- rumors of double agents persisted.

Problems for the Awakening Movement began in the fall of 2008 when the Iraqi government took control of the Sons of Iraq, promising to keep paying their US $300 monthly salaries while transitioning them into government employment or the Iraqi security forces. Both tasks proved easier said than done, and many SOIs claim the Shi'a-led government never intended to support their majority Sunni forces.

Those accusations gained traction in the spring of 2009, when Iraqi security forces arrested numerous Sahwa leaders and members on charges ranging from murder to extortion to links to Sadaam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. A March arrest in Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood developed into a dramatic standoff between Iraqi Army forces and SOIs loyal to the accused, and fighting continued for two days. However such public accusations against the Sons of Iraq soon tapered off.

Now the biggest threat to the Sons of Iraq is assassination. The Guardian spoke with a Baghdad Awakening leader who put it in stark terms:

We are being hunted down. It has never been worse. I have been targeted by roadside bombs six times in the past four months."

The Guardian reports that every SOI leader is assigned three bodyguards by the Iraqi government. But I haven't been able to find what protection if any rank and file members receive. Even with bodyguards, the SOI leader and his family are vulnerable. His son recently spent a month in the hospital after drinking poisoned orange juice. Even his backyard fishpond was poisoned. Who does he blame? Al Qaeda.

While I haven't had the chance check this out firsthand, every SOI I've seen interviewed points his finger at Sunni insurgents eager for revenge against the traitorous Sahwa forces. That same Guardian article raised the prospect that the attackers may be among the nearly 10,000 Iraqi detainees recently freed during the handover of the country's prisons from U.S. to Iraqi control. That explanation makes a great deal of sense to me, especially because a number of those freed no doubt have axes to grind with the people responsible for locking them up. Sahwa forces are attractive and easy targets for revenge.

An explanation I don't buy is this one, given by Politics Daily's David Wood in a post on the most recent outbreak of violence against the SOIs:

This morning's killings are part of a significant uprise in violence against Sahwa members, presumably by Shiite gunmen who see the large number of armed Sunnis as a threat."

I don't think you can presume that at all. While some radical Shi'a factions might have an interest in further cementing Shi'a dominance by weakening the Sahwa movement, these assassinations read to me like retribution, plain and simple. The SOIs helped to slow the cycle of sectarian violence largely by rounding up Sunni insurgents, protecting both Sunnis and Shi'i in the process. To my knowledge, there were never any major run-ins between Awakening groups and the Mahdi Army, the Badr Brigades, or any other Shi'a militia.

The Shi'a-led government has long been uncomfortable with the idea of supporting what's essentially an armed Sunni militia, and they are working towards the goal of reintegration. However IWPR estimates that 40,000 Sons of Iraq remain on the streets while they wait for government employment. In the meantime, a recent decision to revoke the weapons permits of Sahwa forces in Diyala Province might be a troubling sign of things to come. Without guns, the SOIs are sitting ducks, unable to perform their jobs and vulnerable to attack. And they likely won't give up their weapons without a fight.

One SOI with whom IWPR spoke summed up his feelings toward the current Shi'a-led government this way: "We have no support from the government. They betrayed us."

While most analysts have long written off the prospect of SOIs rejoining their former insurgent groups on the belief that the traitors would never be accepted back into the fold, that calculus might be changing. AQI and the Islamic State of Iraq are hard up for recruits, and they might stand a good chance of attracting current Sons of Iraq now disarmed, fed up with the government, and under attack from those very insurgent groups should they choose not to join.

What will be crucial to watch is whether there is sufficient Sunni representation in the new government to ensure both that the Sons of Iraq receive support and protection and that the SOIs themselves don't turn against the government. As another Sahwa member put it to IWPR in that same article: "If the votes of Sunnis are ignored and the government is formed according to Iran's interests, and if Sunnis are still denied funds and discriminated against, then they will take up arms against the state."

The one piece of the puzzle most Awakening members seem to agree should remain in place is U.S. troops in Iraq. Without them, they fear, violence against Sunnis will break out, and the Iraqi government will do nothing to stop it. Given the threat of attack they face today, I can't blame them for worrying.

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