Natural resources, energy and environment
Afghanistan has great natural resources, but
the rugged mountain terrain, the armed conflict and
severe corruption mean that the opportunities to extract
these resources at present are small. Electricity
shortages and environmental degradation are other
problems that the country is facing.
Iron, copper, coal, salt, silver, gold, natural gas,
oil, mercury, cobalt, lithium and much more have been
found, in some cases in fairly large quantities. The
problem with most mineral deposits in Afghanistan is
that large parts of the country are so inaccessible and
transport opportunities are so poor that the
profitability of the extraction is debatable.
Major exports by Afghanistan with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
US geologists, who partnered with the Pentagon
Defense Headquarters, estimated in 2010 that Afghanistan
has mineral resources worth at least $ 1,000 billion. In
addition, it was estimated that there are oil and gas
reserves worth double that. It aroused hopes that the
country could more than compensate for the reduced
income that the foreign squad withdrawal 2014 would
entail (see Economic overview). But continued fighting
and acts of violence around the country have so far set
a bar for it.
Another obvious problem in Afghanistan, and
especially when major economic values may be in
circulation, is the deep-rooted corruption, which only
worsened during the war years when the outside world
invested billions on infrastructure; money that has been
insignificant in private pockets and also reached
Taliban and other resistance movements.
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Plenty of oil, natural gas and copper
The most important natural resource to date has been
the natural gas in the north, close to the border with
Uzbekistan. It began to be mined in the early 1960s with
Soviet help. Oil sources have also been found in the
north. The latest finds were made in 2010, when an oil
field was discovered which, according to the Afghan
government, can contain 1.8 billion barrels.
In the province of Logar south of Kabul there is one
of the world's largest undeveloped copper deposits, the
Aynak field. A Chinese government company was granted
the right to start mining the metal in 2007. It would be
the largest investment in Afghanistan's history,
including a railroad to transport copper, but falling
prices and political unrest have led to the project not
In 2011, an Indian consortium won the right to
extract iron in three deposits in the central province
of Bamiyan. The deal was said to be worth $ 10.3
billion. In 2015, however, the project was halted due to
security risks as a result of the armed conflict.
Afghanistan has the world's richest deposits of the
semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. Mining of the dark
blue stone has been going on in the northeastern
mountainous regions for more than 5,000 years. The
country is also a major producer of emeralds.
Disputed law for mining
In August 2014, the Afghan Parliament passed a new
law that is intended to regulate the mining industry and
ensure that the income comes to the nation and
contributes to its development.
International experts, however, have pointed out that
the law has such shortcomings and loopholes that it
risks risking both continued armed conflicts and
deepening corruption. Above all, the law does not
guarantee transparency in bidding and contracts, and the
impact of mining operations on the environment or the
local community need not be investigated until after the
contracts are already written.
Among others, the Global Witness organization, which
studies how natural resource extraction gives rise to
corruption, conflicts and abuses by locals, has warned
that Afghanistan may resemble Congo-Kinshasa, where
armed movements have been waging war for decades through
Electricity shortage and environmental degradation
Energy is mainly extracted from gasoline, which is
imported mainly from Iran and Turkmenistan, as well as
from domestic coal.
Afghan electricity comes mainly from hydropower
plants and to a lesser extent from various fossil fuels.
Experiments are also conducted with wind and solar
Many power plants and power lines have been destroyed
during the wars and electricity shortages are an
obstacle to economic development. In Kabul, the
situation improved significantly in 2009, when a
Uzbekistan power line was commissioned. Then the
electricity supply was secured around the clock in large
parts of the city. A couple of power lines are being
built from Turkmenistan to supply electricity to eastern
and western Afghanistan. In rural areas, one third of
the population is estimated to have access to
The many war years have had serious consequences for
the environment. Lush areas have been turned into
deserts due to bombing and cold cutting for fuel and
timber. The forest cover is estimated to have more than
halved only since the beginning of the 1990s. Only one
percent of the land is currently covered by forest.
Agricultural areas have been destroyed by land mines and
environmentally hazardous waste has been scattered
without control. The groundwater level has dropped
sharply and most drinking water sources are threatened
FACTS - ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
9 809 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
0.3 ton (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
18.4 percent (2015)
More and more civil war victims
The UN envoy says that the number of civilian casualties has increased by ten
percent in 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. The UN has registered 2,730
civilian deaths and 5,169 killed in armed attacks during the first eleven months
of the year. About half have fallen victim to road bombs and suicide attacks.
The Taliban and other insurgency movements are held accountable for most deaths.
Opium cultivation is increasing
The UN reports on sharply increased opium production in Afghanistan in 2013.
The area of poppies has increased by 36 percent since 2012 and the harvest is
almost 50 percent larger. The increase is believed to be due to the farmers
wanting to secure a steady income ahead of the chaos they fear will occur when
the foreign forces leave the country towards the end of 2014.
Big losses for the army
According to a US general, the Afghan army loses 50 to 100 men each week in
combat. That's about as many on average as the US lost in Vietnam during the
1960s and 1970s.
Cops live dangerously
Interior Minister Umer Daudzai reveals that 1,792 police officers have been
killed and more than 2,700 injured in the past six months. Most have fallen
victim to explosive charges on the country's roads.
Lifetime for American killer
The US soldier who killed 16 Afghan villagers in March 2012 is sentenced to
life imprisonment by a US military court. He avoids the death penalty by
pleading guilty. The judgment does not allow him to ever ask for mercy.
The Afghans take responsibility for the whole country
The Afghan security forces formally assume responsibility for the entire
country as the last 95 districts are transferred from NATO to domestic control.
The US wants to negotiate with the Taliban
A high-ranking US government source confirms that the US will begin direct
negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, where the Islamist movement has opened
an office. President Karzai says talks that are not led by him undermine the
Afghan government's position. The start of the negotiations is postponed under
increasing mutual suspicion.
Terror attack against HD
At least 15 people lose their lives and over 40 are injured in a suicide
attack directed at the Supreme Court in Kabul. The Taliban take on the blame for
the act and announce that they intend to continue attacking legal institutions
as long as death sentences are issued against the Taliban.
Attack on Red Cross office
The International Red Cross Committee's office in Jalalabad is subjected to a
suicide attack and subsequent shooting. One guard and two of the attackers are
killed. This is the first time a Red Cross office has been attacked in the 25
years the organization has worked in the country.
More women in prison
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is raising the alarm that the number of women
imprisoned for "moral crimes" is increasing significantly. During the last
18-month period, the number has increased by 50 percent, from 400 to 600.
According to HRW, the vast majority have been sentenced to long prison terms for
escaping from home after being abused or raped by their husbands.
Law on women's peace is being curbed
Parliament interrupts debate on a law banning violence against women. The law
was approved by decree by President Karzai in 2009 but needed to be formally
adopted by Parliament. During an upset debate, a series of anti-woman arguments
are put forward by conservative members, after which the President says that the
debate may resume later.
The CIA is suspected of mutating Karzai
The New York Times newspaper reveals that, for years, the US intelligence
service CIA has handed tens of millions of dollars in cash to President Karzai's
office. The money should have been intended to give the CIA influence over
political decisions in Afghanistan but instead has fueled corruption and funded
Taliban attack court
At least 53 people are killed and over 90 injured when nine Taliban storm a
court in the Farah province of western Afghanistan in an attempt to release 13
members of the Taliban militia who would face trial.
Bank directors are imprisoned
Two former chief executives of Kabul Bank are sentenced by a special court to
each five years in prison for fraudulent transactions that in 2010 went
bankrupt, which would have harmed the entire Afghan economy (see also Finance).
They are also sentenced to fines a total of more than $ 800 million, equivalent
to the amount they believe is stolen from the bank. Another 21 other former bank
employees are imprisoned for between two and four years.
Corruption is increasing
A UN investigation shows that corruption is increasing sharply in absolute
terms, but that slightly fewer residents are paying bribes. According to the
report, the equivalent of US $ 3.9 billion in bribes was paid to public
employees in 2012, an increase of 40 percent since a previous survey in 2009.
Torture suspicion is investigated
The government appoints a commission to investigate allegations of torture in
Faster surrender to the Afghans
On a visit to Washington, President Karzai will agree with US President Obama
that the Afghan army will take over responsibility for the war efforts in the
country as early as spring. The Americans will then devote themselves to
education, counseling and support for the Afghan troops.