My personal experiences from Afghanistan have taught me that the Afghanis are resilient people, capable of overcoming natural disasters, political turmoil, and complex insurgencies.

Afghanistan’s economic development has been stifled considerably by war and poverty; climate change will only add another hindrance to the list. However, there is a deep desire amongst the Afghan population to secure a stable future. Many young Afghanis are risking their lives to make this a reality.

Ironically, the very election that is the arbiter of regaining security and hope in the future could quite possibly prompt a civil war.

The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is Ashraf Ghani. However, on 9 March 2020, his opponent Abdullah Abdullah inaugurated himself as president, therefore disputing the Presidency. Afghanistan’s two leading presidential candidates held separate swearing-in ceremonies after both claimed to have won last year’s elections.

Nonetheless, should the political leadership wish so, there is economic potential for Afghanistan. This potential can be found in harnessing the wealth in its soil on the micro and macro level: The country has vast natural resources that could be developed into a viable economic endeavor. This would promote the socioeconomic status of the country’s inhabitants, increasing infrastructural development, and creating the means for self-sustained security forces.

Under the heterogeneous terrain of Afghanistan lies a huge amount of mineral wealth. It has been estimated that mineral deposits worth over $1 trillion lie under Afghanistan’s soil. These resources include common metals, such as copper and iron, precious metals, like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, as well as fossils fuels.

Obvious security problems, and problems associated with extraction and processing, limit the ability of the government to extract these resources. Thus, the government has signed off some of these deposits: Chinese and Indian companies have signed contracts for separate areas of the country, in order to extract copper and iron (respectively). Still, security concerns have stalled progress on these projects.

After 19 years of war, U.S. troops begin withdrawing from Afghanistan

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Another issue is that the Afghani government seems intent on setting up contracts as they appear. Such actions will only further poverty in the country, as these foreign companies will not employ Afghanis due to their lack of technical training and will likely contract skilled and unskilled laborers from their own countries. Ultimately, these companies have no economic incentives to educate the population in mining procedures, and Afghanistan would likely see an increase in foreign workers. Although some sectors of the economy would benefit from the international capital, it is safe to presume that the country would rather benefit more from a large skilled and employed workforce.

Unfortunately, though, the much-broadcasted security issues with the Taliban draw attention away from prospective measures that could help the population. However, the Afghan government and the Western forces should begin concentrating on developing employment avenues for the average Afghan, for example, by fostering micro-mining. This will create the skilled labor basis needed for the larger-scale exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth.