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Guest “America last… again” by David Middleton

Biden’s Clean Energy Program Loses Out on Afghan Lithium
BY IER

AUGUST 24, 2021

Afghanistan is the “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” –a metal that is essential for electric vehicle batteries and battery storage technologies. According to the International Energy Agency these technologies account for 30 percent of the current global demand for lithium. Demand for lithium is projected to increase 40-fold above 2020 levels by 2040, along with rare earth elements, copper, cobalt, and other minerals in which Afghanistan is also naturally rich.

China currently controls the supply chains for most of the production and/or processing of these minerals. Now China may have another source.

According to MarketWatch:

"The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has led to grave concerns about the safety of Afghan citizens and foreigners alike, but also raised questions about the future of the nation’s vast mineral reserves, once valued at as much as $3 trillion.

The chaos may offer China, which dominates the world market for rare earths, widely used in technology, to step in to develop the mineral reserves, which also include lithium, used in the manufacture of batteries.

“Chinese dealmakers have their bags packed, and will arrive on the first flights after the airports open,” said Byron King, geologist and mining and energy writer for Agora Financial."

In 2010, an internal U.S. Department of Defense memorandum identified the extent of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth at a value between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. In the past, the Afghan government hoped the prospect of lucrative mining contracts would be an enticement for U.S. officials to prolong the American military presence in the country. But, with the Taliban now in charge, that option is no longer available. The Taliban have long illegally tapped the country’s minerals (especially lapis lazuli, a gem) as a source of up to $300 million in annual revenue for their insurgency.

[…]

Conclusion

To have Afghanistan’s minerals under Taliban control is a blow to American economic interests. And, despite the Taliban’s struggle to maintain basic public services and utilities in the cities that they have seized, the opportunity is there for China or Russia to capture some of the country’s mineral wealth. In yet another way, President Biden’s policies will benefit China and Russia while costing the American people.

IER
Source: P.W.K. International Advisers

America Last… Again

But, but, but… Trump!

No, Trump Didn’t Force Biden’s Withdrawal
The Taliban violated the Doha agreement, so the U.S. could have stayed.

By S. Paul Kapur
Aug. 31, 2021

The Biden administration has consistently blamed the Trump administration’s 2020 Doha agreement with the Taliban for the Afghanistan debacle. The agreement, the Biden team insists, left the president no choice but to remove U.S. forces unconditionally from Afghanistan by Aug. 31. In fact, President Biden’s failure to hold the Taliban to the terms of the Doha agreement contributed to this disaster.

[…]

Trump administration officials emphasized the conditional nature of the U.S. commitment when the Doha agreement was signed. As Defense Secretary Mark Esper put it in March 2020, Doha “is a conditions-based agreement.” If “we assess that the Taliban is honoring the terms of the deal,” including “progress on the political front between the Taliban and the current Afghan government,” the U.S. will “reduce our presence toward a goal of zero in 2021.” But Mr. Esper made clear that the American withdrawal wouldn’t be automatic. “If progress stalls,” he warned, “then our drawdown likely will be suspended, as well.”

The Taliban didn’t honor its political commitments and ultimately took Afghanistan by force. The Biden administration’s claim that the Doha agreement left no choice but to quit Afghanistan unconditionally is false. Given the Taliban’s behavior, the U.S. wasn’t obligated to withdraw by May 1, by Aug. 31, or any other date. Withdrawal was a choice. And the Biden administration’s announcement of this choice in April triggered the Taliban offensive to retake Afghanistan and set the disastrous U.S. departure in motion.

[…]

Wall Street Journal

The Doha agreement actually afforded the Biden administration a huge opportunity…

Breaking the Stalemate: Biden Can Use the U.S.-Taliban Deal to Bring Peace
U.S. troop withdrawal looms over negotiations a year after the historic agreement.

Thursday, February 25, 2021 / BY: Scott Worden

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, Afghanistan remains unfortunately far away from peace. The historic agreement paved the way for a full U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the start of intra-Afghan talks on a political settlement of the conflict. As the May 1 withdrawal deadline nears, the Biden administration is undertaking a rapid Afghanistan policy review to determine its overall strategy toward the slow-moving intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar. A key reason for the lack of movement in talks is that both sides are anxiously waiting to see what Biden decides. 

It is important to recognize that the U.S.-Taliban agreement was designed to be a stepping stone to a comprehensive settlement of the conflict and not a replacement for an Afghan agreement. By agreeing to a conditional timeline to withdraw combat forces, the United States was able to overcome the Taliban’s resistance to negotiate directly with the Afghan government. The Afghan peace process and the U.S. agreement are mutually dependent. Without U.S. forces as leverage, the two sides may not continue to negotiate. Without a negotiated agreement, terrorist safe havens will likely persist and the U.S. will remain threatened by al-Qaida and, increasingly, ISIS.

Conditions or Timelines?

The biggest question now is whether the United States assesses that enough of the conditions laid out in the February 29, 2020 agreement have been met to withdraw all U.S. combat forces by May 1. By most measures, the answer is no. There are four “interrelated” elements of the agreement: (1) counterterrorism actions by the Taliban; (2) a conditional timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal, (3) commencing intra-Afghan talks, and (4) discussion of conditions that would lead to a permanent cease-fire.

[…]

United States Institute for Peace

“Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to [frack] things up.”

Yet searing, anonymously sourced quotes from Obama kept appearing through the race. One Democrat who spoke to Obama recalled the former president warning, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to [frack] things up.” Speaking of his own waning understanding of today’s Democratic electorate, especially in Iowa, Obama told one 2020 candidate: “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”

Politico, August 14, 2020

via Watts Up With That?

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September 1, 2021