It can happen by helping the Afghans take advantage of a vast store of “iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium” that have been found in their country. The deposits are so tremendous, that they could help generate as much as $1 trillion in revenue.
Yes, that’s “trillion” with a T.
Obviously, the monetary figure is eye-popping, but the most important thing about the discovered mineral deposits is that they fundamentally change the nature of the discussion about Afghanistan. Up until now, many of those urging withdrawal from Afghanistan have been claiming that there is no way for the United States and its allies to set up a viable Afghan economy that does not depend on the opium trade. They cannot say that anymore. Nation-building is still a parlous exercise, and to be sure, the United States has to be in Afghanistan primarily to defeat a terrorist threat–the same one that helped launch the 9/11 attacks. But while nation-building remains exceedingly difficult, this new find serves to potentially make it easier. It also serves to fundamentally change the nature of the debate that we will have in policymaking circles concerning Afghanistan.