I admit the title is a bit of a stretch: American soldiers aren’t really acting as hired gunsels for the People’s Republic of China, at least not intentionally. It’s just a side effect of the war in Afghanistan.
But the end result is the same: with the help of the military might of the United States, the ChiComs stand to make a fortune in Afghanistan. We’re securing billions of dollars in Chinese investments by protecting their mining operation from the Taliban.
According to The Arizona Daily Star:
GIs guard huge Chinese mine project in Afghanistan
JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan — In this Taliban stronghold in the mountains south of Kabul, the U.S. Army is providing the security that will enable China to exploit one of the world’s largest unexploited deposits of copper, earn tens of billions of dollars and feed its voracious appetite for raw materials.
U.S. troops set up bases last month along a dirt track a Chinese firm is paving as part of a $3 billion project to gain access to the Aynak copper reserves.
Some troops made camp outside a compound built for the Chinese road crews, who are about to return from winter break. American forces also have expanded their presence in neighboring Logar province, where the Aynak deposit is.
The U.S. deployment wasn’t intended to protect the Chinese investment — the largest in Afghanistan’s history — but to strangle Taliban infiltration into the capital of Kabul. But if the mission provides the security that a project to revive Afghanistan’s economy needs, the synergy will be welcome.
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Beijing faces enormous challenges in completing the project and gaining access to the estimated 240 million tons of copper ore that are accessible through surface mining. Taliban-led insurgents operate in large parts of Logar and Wardak; the area is sown with mines; and China must complete an ambitious set of infrastructure projects, including Afghanistan’s first national railway, as part of the deal.
The site was discovered by an Afghan-Soviet team in 1974. But in the face of armed resistance during their 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviets were never able to develop the site.
The main challenge to the state-owned China Metallurgical Construction Corp. is the Taliban, who moved into Kabul’s southern fringes after China clinched the deal, prompting the January deployment in Logar and Wardak of more than 2,000 troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb injured three policemen protecting a crew building an access road to Aynak.
Other challenges include transporting equipment and materials into the landlocked nation from Pakistan and Central Asia; Kabul’s inexperience in handling massive projects; endemic corruption; lax enforcement of laws; and the global economic meltdown.
Moreover, China must deliver the infrastructure projects that helped it snag the deal.
These include an on-site copper smelter; a $500 million generating station to power the project and augment Kabul’s electricity supply; a coal mine to fuel the power station; a ground-water system, roads, new homes, hospitals and schools for mine workers and their families; and a railway line from the country’s northern border with Uzbekistan to its southeastern border with Pakistan.
The deal, Ashraf said, is structured so that by the seventh year, the entire work force will be Afghan. Beginning in 2010, 60 Afghan engineering students a year will study in China, he said, adding that Chinese language courses have begun at Kabul University.
Employment projections vary, but there is general agreement that as many as 10,000 workers could be hired at Aynak and the coal mine in central Afghanistan, which the Jalrez Valley road project will link to the copper field. The railway will need thousands more.
China may hope that the Aynak deal will help position it to compete for more projects in Afghanistan. The region is thought to hold some of the world’s last major untapped deposits of iron, copper, gold, uranium, precious gems and other raw materials.
Consider the list of beneficiaries mentioned above:
- The local economy south of Kabul
- The workforce of Aynak
- For the Jalrez Valley: new roads, railways, water systems, power plants, schools, and other infrastructure
- Chinese universities
- Afghan universities
- And presumably even the Taliban, who are sure to rake in piles of protection money once the mines are a going concern
But there’s nothing in it for the United States of America. None of our soldiers will carry home suitcases full of newly-smelted copper.
The only thing we will get out of the deal is that the Muslims will love us and forgive us, and terrorism will finally disappear from the face of the earth.
That’s what John Kerry says, so it must be true.
The Chinese Communists will make an enormous amount of money, and in return we will have the privilege of borrowing some of it.
The entire United States military is now China’s Blackwater — only the pay isn’t as good.
Hat tip: Zenster.