Iran, China, Russia and India are poised to become the real beneficiaries of the blood and treasure we've poured into the Afghan War.
An investigation by the British newspaper, The Independent, finds that these countries will be moving in to exploit Afghanistan's mineral riches when we move out in 2014.
"The potentially lucrative task of exploiting Afghanistan's immense mineral wealth – estimated to be worth around £2trn, according to the Kabul government – is only in the early stages. But already China and India in particular are doing deals and beginning work. Facilities already established are being protected by local army and police, part of whose funding, and most of whose training, has been a US/UK responsibility.
"The anomaly of two Afghanistans – one of massacres, roadside bombs, and battles with the Taliban, the other of commercial deals in the hundreds of millions – is not lost on observers. Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "The Chinese are self-interested. I don't blame them for that. But it is on the backs of the sacrifice made by [the] British and Americans and others, the sacrifices we have made which we hope after 2014 will lead to a more stable and secure Afghanistan, and for the Chinese to capitalise on that doesn't go down well."
Initiatives to exploit enormous mineral wealth from a nation run by a dysfunctionally corrupt and hapless central government in the throes of an unresolved civil war usually exact a pretty nasty toll on the helpless civilian population, the Afghan peasant.