The U.S. has been in Afghanistan long enough that old ideas are starting to resurface as new ones. The administration of President Donald Trump is moving forward with plans to tap Afghanistan's mineral wealth, deposits of gold, iron, copper, zinc, lithium and other rare-earth metals worth an estimated $1 trillion-$3 trillion. While operational details remain unclear, Trump has discussed the idea with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on multiple occasions, and at least one U.S. metals company is eager to participate.
There is something irresistible about the idea of unearthing Afghanistan's hidden treasure. The Soviet Union and two previous U.S. administrations were all drawn to it. The U.S. has already provided roughly half a billion dollars in aid to develop Afghanistan's mining and energy resources. But without major improvements in Afghanistan's security, governance, and infrastructure development, there is no reason to expect success.