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.
- COUNTRYAAH: 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.
- Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, AF stands for Afghanistan. Visit itypeusa for more information about Afghanistan.
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 yet started.
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 illegal mining.
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 power.
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 electricity.
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 by pollution.
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 private militias.
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 Afghan prisons.
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.