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A game changer or a PR spin?

Zafar Anjum | June 17, 2010
Reporting the finding of a humungous US$1 trillion worth mineral deposits, a recent New York Times article said Afghanistan could become Saudi Arabia of Lithium. One wonders if the timing of the report has more to do with the floundering war on terror in Afghanistan than with the poor countrys rich fortunes.

Recently, The New York Times broke a story that claimed the discovery of a massive US$1 trillion deposit of untapped minerals in Afghanistan, including huge amounts of lithium. Lithium, as you know, is widely used in laptop and many consumer electronics batteries.

As such, the news is manna to the ears of the technology and energy industry. Lithium is in short supply and the demand for electronic consumer products is rising by the day. So, the more, the merrier!

Expectedly, the report drew huge attention from the copycat media the world overnone pondering for a moment why the news was broken at this point of time.

To put the news in clear context, it is important to know that the Americans and the NATO forces are stuck in Afghanistan and are also losing public support for the war. US president Barack Obamas troop surge has not brought the Americans what they had expected. If you read political commentary by independent commentators and analysts, you probably already know this. For an updated commentary, I can point you to this erudite one by esteemed historian and novelist Tariq Ali (Obamas War).

So, the question to ask is: was this NYT report a genuine one or was it planted by the likes of the American war machine?

Many now doubt the intent of the reports timing, including American journalist Jean MacKenzie of the Global Post.  She asks if The New York Times' story on minerals in Afghanistan was smart or the result of Pentagon PR. A Wired blog by Katie Drummond has also cast aspersions on the NYT storys timing.

Not a new story

The story of Afghanistans mineral wealth is not new. For decades, geologists in Russia and America have known about mineral deposits in the war-torn country. Both Jean and Katie have pointed this out in their writings.

What is suspect, therefore, is the timing of the report. When Pentagon released a report last April on the progress of the Afghanistan surge, it included only a single passing reference to a survey that is now being touted as US$1 trillion find. The only reference to minerals in Aprils 152-page Pentagon report occurs in a section of just two paragraphs devoted to the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), whose survey last fall supposedly revealed the newly-found resources, a report said.

How come then, this story became so hugea US$1 trillion dollar discovery?

Here, we must remember that planting stories in the media by defence agencies such as Pentagon and CIA is an old practice. There is evidence of the CIAs strategies of trying to mould public opinion by planting stories in the European media when the public support started waning for the war on Afghanistan. For details, see this wikileaks document: CIA report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe, 11 Mar 2010.


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