The New York Times reports that the U.S. has discovered upwards of a trillion dollars worth of mineral deposits in Afghanistan:
...The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries.
The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists.
The wealth in these deposits represents roughly 80-years of Afghanistan's current GDP. In a hellhole beset by warlordism and tribalism, preyed upon by corrupt officials and institutional criminal classes and surrounded by hostile and avaricious neighbours, it should be a rockin' time in Kabul's henhouse.
Of course there's always the Chinese. Afghanistan has huge copper reserves and, while we've been dying and bleeding our treasuries to defend Karzai from the Taliban, China has quietly snapped up the rights to all that copper. They're even constructing a state of the art rail line into Afghanistan to haul out the ore.
Come to think on it, Afghanistan really doesn't need Western forces any more. With that kind of wealth they can easily afford to hire all the muscle they need from outfits like Blackwater, KBR and Halliburton. Can we come home now? Think the Chinese don't have an appetite for iron, cobalt, gold and lithium?