« National Journal - 14 June 2010 | Main | Open Thread - FIFA 2010 »

14 June 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Gov't Geologist Spoke Of Vast Economic Benefit Of Afghan Minerals -- Over Two Years Ago




How is drone use inside the US any different than a manned surveillance aircraft with similar capabilities? Many law enforcement agencies already have aircraft with sensor pods for surveillance and anyone with a pilot's license and a set of good binoculars or a camera can do basic aerial surveillance. Allowing UAV's to operate in FAA-controlled airspace doesn't change any of that. The important issue here is really safety and the FAA needs to ensure that UAV systems are reliable and robust enough so they don't endanger manned aircraft.

As for the mineral "discovery" it doesn't mean much. It's one thing to have resources in the ground, it's quite another to extract them and get them to market at a competitive price. The challenges there are severe, to say the least.


"B" is right -- we heard about the vast mineral wealth of Affie while in Karachi, back in the mid-90's. Nice point about the story being pulled "out of the drawers" since we all know what we occasionally find in OUR drawers!
Listen folks, Afghanistan is the equivalent of mile-deep off shore drilling, except rather than dealing with exotic climates, uncertain currents and sea bed pressures, you're dealing with exotic tribals, social currents and "religious" pressures, not to mention having your elbow jiggled by Russians, Chinese & other folks in the neighborhood.
Only bright side is that -- should this play out unlike Iraq, the sociopaths of the Taliban & Hekmatayar's men will find themselves up against their modern equivalent -- corporate America in all it's pathological glory.



With 'manned' aerial surveillance you're talking about the 'human factor' of those who have licensed flying skills . Your talking about humans who can and have said 'no'. 'No' to orders which if allowed to continue would have 'stepped over the line'. Whereas drones, all it takes is an individual with requisite stick dexterity skills. There are many with the required stick capabilities to fly drones who have no compunction when it comes to 'stepping over the line'. Also with drones, the capability exists for computerized flight which would take out the human/moral factor. Hence the rub.

IMO we as a nation should say no to drones , and yes to manned aerial surveillance if/when surveillance is required. Such will keep it in the surveillance arena and out of the 'stick-trigger' arena.


Col. Lang,

By coincidence I dined yesterday at the Hotel where The Captain of the CSS Shenandoah (Lt. James Waddell) stayed in 1865 in Ballarat, at that time the richest city in the world due to the gold underneath it. The Shenandoah was heading back to America and stopped in Melbourne. My yacht club gave a party for the officers. We have a copy of the menu and program.

Mining companies will have a polite chuckle about the naivety of the Pentagon over this.

Aside from the simple calculations of return on investment, there is a little matter of "country risk" which is at unacceptable levels in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future except for mines that offer very rich pickings with minimal investment for example alluvial gold.

Contrary to popular opinion, the world is not short of extractable minerals, it is short of extractable minerals that are profitable at todays prices.

There is still plenty of gold under Ballarat to this day, just not profitable gold even at todays prices.

Adam L. Silverman

Here's the 2007 USGS report that the disclosure to Mr. Risen was based upon:



What is so special about a pilot's license? Why do you think licensed pilots somehow possess greater moral character? And what makes you think the FAA would not require UAV operators to be licensed? And, unless you're talking about the "Terminator" movies, the human/moral factor cannot be removed. Someone has to program even a fully-autonomous aircraft and those aircraft cannot, by definition, be autonomous and operated in controlled airspace. UAV's will have to carry, at a minimum, transponders and be able to carry out air traffic controller commands when operating in controlled airspace.

Finally, the FAA already allows UAV flights "inside" this country by carving out restricted airspace for their use. The restriction is to simply to keep manned and unmanned aircraft separated for safety reasons. All that's being considered is to allow both types to operate concurrently in the same airspace provided the vehicles and operators meet certain requirements (ie. certification and licensing).


Col., thank you, I was unaware about "friends" other than the usual suspects.


Sounds like the Dem Rep of the Congo, except without the rain forest.

Clifford Kiracofe

Something of a buzz developing on this from local inside the Beltway pundit types all the way to al-Jezeera:

""The quality of the ore is excellent, and the richest varieties are to be found," a surveyor wrote in a report on Afghanistan’s untapped natural resources.

The surveyor was one Captain Drummond, a British officer in the 3rd Light Cavalry. The year? 1841.

169 years later, the New York Times reported that Afghanistan could have nearly $1 trillion in copper, iron and other minerals. The US defence department called those reserves a "game-changer" for the US-led war in Afghanistan.

Despite centuries of attention, though, Afghanistan’s natural resources have proved difficult to extract. It’s not for lack of trying: The British empire took an interest in them; so did the Soviet Union, which conducted numerous geological surveys in the 1970s.

More recently, the World Bank published a report in 2004 on the vast economic potential in Afghanistan’s mining sector. And the US Geological Survey reported in 2007 that Afghanistan has "significant amounts of undiscovered nonfuel mineral resources."

All the breathless "gee wiz" about Afghan minerals all of a sudden compliments of the New York Times....so just who "suggested" this story to the Times and fed the info to them?

Somewhere in the garage I have a two volume set on Russian mineral resources from the Cold War days. Having studied some geology in high school and college I have retained an interest.

I suppose some of us oldsters who worked on the "resource wars" and "Cape Route" stuff in the 1970s should dust off the unclassified material moldering in our basements and garages and recycle it with a Central Asian context and twist.

But, being semi-retired now, I am more interested in my motorcycles and fishing...


Apparently this mineral wealth has been known about for some time. So it's interesting that it is receiving publicity now, as if this will somehow influence immediate events. It reminds me vividly of promises that Iraq's oil proceeds would pay us handsomely for our invasion.

I'm not sure that minerals will be good for the average person. If anything, Afghanistan may repeat the trajectory of the Congo, as various powerful parties jostle to gain control of resources and line their own pockets with the proceeds.

This only increases the incentives for Pakistan, Iran, India, the US, China and Russia to dig in and support their proxies in conquering and holding more territory. It may benefit the central government, and thus the average person. But the trickle down to villages and individuals may be very slow and inequitable.

There is also the little matter of mining this mineral wealth and then removing it from Afghanistan and getting it into the world's markets. Afghanistan is landlocked, and one of the most remote, mountainous and infrastructure lacking places in the world. Enormous amounts of infrastructure will have to he imported to mine, refine and transport these minerals. Highways and railroads will have to be built, and large equipment brought in.

Ease of access will favor Iran and Russia, and China, if they can build a railroad through their mountains. With the Khyber Pass as Pakistan's best access point, they are highly disadvantaged.

The local population is lacking almost all skills to participate in mining, so much of the employment may be lost other other nationals as contract labor.

As with various oil and gas pipeline plans, all f this will await either the cessation of hostilities, or sufficient consolidation of control in various areas before any investment and construction can begin. Whether a single ounce of ore ever makes it out of Afghanistan is another thing entirely.



I'm not talking about movies, I'm referring to the abuses that have happened regarding drones usage. Do you really want such carry over from the battlefield onto U.S. soil. I sure as heck don't. It appears on this point we disagree. Drones on a 'war' battlefield is one thing, drones here at home is an entirely other matter. Since 911 I have seen first hand the changes of mindset taking place in U.S. law enforcement from local to State to Federal. Having been in the State arena many years back before trekking into the military environment, and witnessing their attitudes yesterday versus today makes me shudder. Law Enforcement used to be a mindset of 'peace officer'. Today sadly it is quasi-military. Yesterday it was about our Constitution, oath to protect, today it's about 'enforcement'. I had a conversation a few weeks back with a young kid just roughly a year into his law enforcement career. His prior experience had been as a Marine on the battlefields of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our conversations were about what both of us were seeing regarding the mindset of the law enforcement arena, both of us were 'concerned' as to the 'militarization' taking place within U.S. law enforcement as a whole. Military weapons, military gadgets, military style clothing, virtually every department has its own SWAT teams. In the years prior if SWAT was needed, one called upon the State to handle such situations. Today local PDs have their own snipers. Tasers all too frequently used instead of flexi-cuffs. It runs the gamut. Andy, I'm bone-tired of seeing 'militarization creep' of our Federal, State, and Local law enforcements. IMO they don't need more 'military toys' like drones added to their already growing military caches. There is a 'creep' taking place before our eyes, a slow creep of turning the broadsword of war inwards. It's time to stop this creep, stop it cold before it passes a point of no return.


Cost of recovery.
Cost of recovery.
Cost of recovery.

There's trillions of dollars worth of minerals in seawater too.



My current job is working with drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, so this is a topic I know a bit about. I'm not sure what abuses you're talking about, but the assertion that such abuses would "carryover" doesn't make much sense. The legal authorities for drone use in a war overseas are different that the legal authorities for drone use in the US.

Drone actions overseas are actually more accountable because there are literally dozens if not hundreds of people watching the live feeds and the video is archived. The operations are distributed so that a drone flown by one unit supports a different unit and the intelligence is exploited (in real time) by a third and possibly fourth unit. If a mistake or abuse occurs it is about impossible to bury it, unlike a manned aircraft where there might not be any video record at all and everything occurs within a single chain-of-command.

Additionally, you are confusing two issues - one is a safety-of-flight issue for US airspace which is what the article you originally linked to addresses. The other issue is about the appropriate use of surveillance technology in domestic law enforcement. It is a mistake to attempt to address concerns about the latter by attempting to restrict the former.

The safety-of-flight issue is something the FAA will have to deal with regardless because UAV's have application far beyond surveillance. And as I already noted, surveillance UAV's are not prevented from operating in US airspace right now, so the horse is already out of that barn.

The danger of inappropriate use of surveillance technology is a legitimate one and it is a concern I share. I am intimately familiar with drone surveillance and their advantages and limitations and I'm much more concerned with the ubiquity of surveillance cameras. I would not want the US to do what the British have done in London for example.

Anyway, to summarize, the issue I have with your comments here is that your proposed solution (ban drones from US airspace) doesn't solve the problem you'd like to solve while causing other problems (ie. ban non-surveillance UAV uses).



Stay safe in your current endeavors. Who worries me regarding the mis-use of drones within CONUS is DHS more so than DOD. We agree to disagree on the issue. While I can limitedly agree to use drones in a limited capacity 'only' over U.S. border corridors, drones of all makes and persuasions should be banned from operation within/inside the U.S. past the border corridors.

Charlie Wilson

"Will American companies want to do business in Afghanistan? Of course they will, but they are going to have a lot of competitiion.

The Afghans should now start worrying about what the nature of their relations with Pakistan and Iran will be in the future."

Damn Colonel, I didn't know you were a comedian.

Patrick Lang


I remember you. How did you miss that? pl

Charlie Wilson

Touche' Colonel.

Hospitality and Sanctuary have been tested and remain valid in Af. I wouldn't want to represent Freeport McMoran in Kabul unless I looked like Zalmay Khalilzad as Revenge is the third item in the code of these ruffians. It has to be assuaged with lots of dollars, which is in short supply.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad