U.S. Geologists Discover $1 Trillion in Mineral Deposits in Afghanistan

Petraeus describes potential investors as "adventure venture capitalists" because they need "an adventurous spirit to go to venture capitalism in Afghanistan." He added, "These guys have done it in other tough places, and they can see the extraordinary potential that exists. But they also see the extraordinary challenges to getting those minerals or whatever out of the ground and then out to a market because of a lack of infrastructure."

According to Petraeus, "Infrastructure, even as important for us to reestablish security, will then become very important to the Afghan security forces to continue that and, indeed, for the overall country of Afghanistan in the longer term."

The infrastructure challenges are enormous. The Afghan economy does not have the capacity to even begin the mining process and the lack of roads throughout much of the country raises challenges for how to export the mineral wealth that lies under Afghanistan. Beyond the lack of physical infrastructure is an Afghan government that does not have the experience in its ministries to even begin the process of accepting contract offers from potential investors.

The vast potential riches associated with Afghanistan's hidden mineral wealth can be difficult to comprehend, even for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Last month, during an event at at Washington's U.S. Institute of Peace with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Karzai described the value of Afghanistan's mineral resources as being between "$1 to $3 billion."

Aides off-stage corrected him, saying the value was in trillions, not billions. "Yeah, 3 billion," said Karzai, "No, no, 3 trillion," corrected an aide. Laughing, Karzai replied, "Trillion! Yeah, $3 trillion. Trillion, sorry. That's what I meant. Trillion, trillion, yeah. $1 to $3 trillion."

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