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  June 16, 2010

Paul Jay on RT - US knew Afghan bonanza in '07

Did mineral deposits in Afghanistan affect President Obama's '09 decision to widen the scope of the war?
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The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials. Paul Jay says that United States has known all about these minerals since 2007, why is this story just coming out now?


RT INTERVIEWER: Afghanistan's making news again. It's in the headlines, but this time not about the war, but about nearly $1 trillion worth of mineral deposits apparently found in the war-torn nation. That's according to US and Afghan officials. But CEO and editor of The Real News Network Paul Jay has a different headline, at least in the Huffington Post today. His piece, he says that the US knew all about these Afghan mineral deposits since 2007. He joins me today for more details and also his take on the recent New York Times article. Now, Paul, you start out your piece with two very important questions I want to address. Number one, you ask: did a 2007 report of massive mineral deposits in Afghanistan affect President Barack Obama's decision to widen the scope of the war? Now, what are you really getting at here, and were you able to answer that question?

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Well, of course, I'm called upon to speculate here, but I think that there's enough information to have [what] I guess one could call an informed speculation. There's no—I don't have evidence that I would talk to anyone who is sitting in the deliberations with President Obama. But the evidence is crystal clear that the United States Geological Survey in 2007 made it clear that there were known deposits of a long list of minerals, from copper and iron ore right through to what may be one of the world's largest deposits of lithium—they're calling it the Saudi Arabia of lithium. This—if we know as a fact this was known in 2007 and it wasn't some little sideline secret or—it was actually announced publicly at a trade fair in Washington, DC, in 2007. The New York Times article tries to suggest that the Afghan government just found out about it recently, except back in the press release issued in 2007 by the US Geological Survey they actually quote the Afghan ambassador, who talks about the quality of and richness of the ore being equal to any in the region—and we know this is a region filled with mineral resources. So we know that the US administration knew about these deposits. It's hard to fathom or believe that President Obama didn't know that. So now we get into informed speculation, and I don't think it's a great leap to say when President Obama was making his decision, if this had been public, people would have said, is this another grab for oil as the war in Iraq was? So I think one can at least speculate that it would have been in US interests not to talk about this. But I also think there's another point that needs to be made here, if you don't mind me rambling on here, which is the United States wasn't the only country that knew about this. Certainly Russia had to know about the results of this [inaudible]

INTERVIEWER: Well, Paul, let's get back to the main question of why. I mean, bring The New York Times into this, because the second question that you asked in your piece, at least, was: is this recent New York Times article—that's the one that's really gaining all this traction when it comes to this—is it omitting that possibility if this was known, you know, back in 2007? And I also want to mention that the New York Times article does say that there were aerial surveys back in 2006, that both US and Afghan officials sort of sat on this for a few years. So why does the headline come out right now? Talk about timing here.

JAY: Well, there's two parts to it. One is the New York Times article specifically says that the evidence that came out in 2006, 2007 surveys, quote-unquote, "sat on the shelf gathering dust", which is simply not true. As I say, it was announced publicly in Washington. I think the reasons it came out now are fairly obvious. I guess the situation on the ground is going very badly. The big campaign plan for Kandahar may even be on hold. And the date of withdrawal, the 2011 date that President Obama said troops should start coming out, is getting awfully close. This now creates a rationale for staying. So, again, an informed speculation, but if you have mineral deposits on the scale of $1 trillion—and it's probably more than that if the survey bears its claims out, and I think they're confident that they do—there's going to be a presence of American troops there for a long time to come, because now it's not just a question of trying to create conditions for an oil pipeline; it's also about how do you create conditions so this place can be mined.

INTERVIEWER: But you also say that, you know, why the story broke in The New York Times on Sunday could be linked to a desire by the Pentagon to sort of create a reason for why US troops might want to stick around in Afghanistan for some time to come, as you just mentioned. But, I mean, what does The New York Times have to do with this? I mean, you sort of seem to be speculating that they're kind of conspiring with the Pentagon when it comes to this situation and these findings.

JAY: Yeah, I mean, that would be pure speculation on my part. The only evidence I have is that they have a direct quote from Gen. Petraeus. I haven't seen that quote anywhere else. In the article they talk about having seen an internal Pentagon memorandum on the lithium question. So, you know, what motivated James Risen to do it at this time I can't say. The timing is just fortuitous. And clearly they are in direct contact with the Pentagon, or they wouldn't have seen the memorandum and have the Petraeus quote.

INTERVIEWER: So you're sort of saying that The New York Times is working with the Pentagon to sort of get support for what's going on over there in Afghanistan?

JAY: I can't imply intent on the part of The New York Times here, 'cause I can only speak about the evidence—I don't know what's in the heart of The New York Times. But it's very common, journalists to cover the Pentagon and have these relationships. You know, they often get, quote-unquote, "fed a story", and that becomes news. So, you know, what else might have been in the mind of James Risen of The New York Times I can't speculate. But clearly the Pentagon feeds stories to various papers and journalists all the time, and sometimes they're real stories, and sometimes it's something the Pentagon wants reported at a certain time. But I do want to get back to my earlier point, which is the United States isn't the only country that kept quiet about this from 2007. Russia had to know about this; China had to know about these minerals. In fact, the first big mineral contract—.

INTERVIEWER: Alright, well, it was the Soviet Union back in the '80s and '90s. I mean, these things were studied, you know, decades ago, right? So it's interesting, you know, from the '80s and '90s and then to 2006, then to 2007, then now. So it sort of made headlines now, but these surveys have been conducted over decades. And I've got to go for now, but I do want to thank you, Paul Jay of The Real News Network for your analysis today. But I'll give you the last word, very briefly.

JAY: Yeah, I just want to make sure I get to say this clearly, 'cause each time I raise the issue of Russia and China I seem to get cut off. The issue I'm raising is, yes, there were some earlier geological surveys done by the Soviet Union, which indicated some of these mineral deposits. I don't think there's any evidence that had anything to do with why—or what the Soviet Union did in Afghanistan. But what I'm saying is, from 2007 on, all the big countries in the world, for example, including Canada, has to know about these things—it's a mining-focused country. So I think all the big powers knew about it and none of them said anything about it, which I think shows there's a lot of agendas going on in Afghanistan.

INTERVIEWER: We'll have to have you back to see why you think that they kept quiet about this. Again, Paul Jay of The Real News Network, we do want to thank you for your analysis and your time today with us.

End of Transcript

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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