It has boosted the power of illegal armed groups, deeply undermined the effectiveness of international aid, and weakened both the legitimacy of the government and its capacity to act. Countering this threat is critical not just for development and economic growth, but for the future of the whole country.
That is especially true for Afghanistan’s wealth of natural resources, which include around a trillion dollars of untapped minerals and substantial reserves of oil and gas. Enormous hopes and expectations are being placed on these resources to drive development and to fund Afghanistan’s government and security forces. But there is a great risk that they will instead fuel conflict and corruption – while generating little or no revenue for a country that badly needs it.
That risk is already evident: widespread illegal mining funds armed groups, including the Taliban and informal militias. Millions of dollars in taxes are lost through corruption and weak administration, while mining contributes little to the national budget. Countering these threats is important not just to ensuring Afghanistan’s natural resources actually benefit the Afghan people, but if hopes for any lasting stability in this war-torn country are to be met.
Global Witness is campaigning to break the link between Afghanistan’s natural resources and the conflict. We are also fighting to end the broader stain of corruption in Afghanistan. We do this in three ways: by investigating and exposing the scale and nature of the problem, by researching possible policy solutions, and by working with the Afghan government and donors to put them into practice.
We are pressing the Afghan government and its foreign partners to prioritise putting in place the strongest possible foundations of transparency, oversight, and effective regulation in Afghanistan. But promises are not enough. We also want them to back their words with political will and international support.
Click here to read the LA Times op-ed on Afghanistan's mining economy.