Mineral Revenue-Sharing as Peace Dividend: Incentivizing Stakeholders to Support Peace and Stability in Afghanistan

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 6, June 2021

By Priscilla A. Tacujan

Mineral Map of Afghanistan. Source: USGS

Various players have raised the prospect over the years of Afghanistan developing its mineral wealth as a means to stabilize the country, but nobody believes that it could achieve enough security to prevent attacks on infrastructure and mining operations.  However, it is possible that Afghanistan might be able to broker peace and reconciliation through a mineral revenue-sharing scheme[1] that directly distributes mining dividends and profits to the general population as well as extract concessions from the Taliban — an approach that has helped mitigate conflict in some other war-torn areas where revenue-sharing has been part of their peace accords.[2]  A trickle-down incentive structure could incentivize the Afghan people and militant groups to pursue peace and reconciliation if they become vested stakeholders and direct beneficiaries of their country’s natural resources.  While security conditions in Afghanistan’s extractive industries remain a challenge, a review of successful revenue-sharing practices in other countries suggests that a similar practice in Afghanistan may yield long-term gains.

Background: Afghan Minerals and Stakeholders

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), commissioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) to study Afghanistan’s extractive industry, has estimated that Afghanistan’s mineral and hydrocarbon deposits could be worth more than $1 trillion, with $908 billion in mineral resources and more than $200 billion in hydrocarbon deposits,[3] while the Afghan government has a more optimistic estimate, at $3 trillion.[4]  The U.S. Geological Survey has also indicated that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth minerals such as lanthanum, cerium, and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury, and lithium deposits as large as those found in Bolivia, known for owning the world’s largest lithium reserves[5],[6]  Several assessments conducted by U.S. agencies and international organizations have concluded that these resources have the potential to contribute significantly to Afghanistan’s economy. Continue reading

Schumer’s No-Good, Weak-Kneed, Sold-Out, Sorry Excuse For a China Bill

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 5, May 2021

By Anders Corr, Ph.D.

U.S. Senate Photographic Studio/Jeff McEvoy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

There’s a dump truck of a China bill coming your direction from Congress, and it’s chock-full of cotton balls. Not a pretty sight. Conservatives and some tough-on-China Democrats are not happy. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the symphony conductor driving this cacophonous beast towards a vote in the next few days or weeks, is in bed with big money. Since 2015, he garnered over $14 million from large individual contributors and over $4 million from PACs (including other candidate committees) for his campaigns. Lawyers have given over $1 million, and lobbyists over $600,000. 

Universities spend big on lobbyists, and can have cash-cow satellite campuses in China that they seek to protect. U.S. Education lobbying sometimes reaches over $100 million per year in aggregate. As far back as 2020, companies effectively lobbied against new laws to limit forced Uyghur labor from China in the American supply chains of companies like Nike, Coca Cola, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Costco, H&M, Campbell Soup, Patagonia, and Tommy Hilfiger. 

Boycott the bunch until they get demonstrably out of the slave labor business by publicly donating to Uyghur human rights groups. Some of them might have left Xinjiang by now, but not China. And, they may only have left after they got caught with their pants down. They must do better and prove that they do better, not only in Xinjiang, and China, but everywhere. Continue reading

Myanmar: A Fight For Democracy Against the February 1 Coup

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2021

This article is by an anonymous university student in Myanmar (Burma) who is currently supporting the pro-democracy social movements there against the February 1 coup. Anonymity has been granted to the author due to the threat against his person that might result from a byline.

Pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar (Burma) following the February 1, 2021 coup.

On March 15th, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P) announced that they moved Myanmar (Burma) to the “Current Crisis” category, as populations here face crimes against humanity perpetrated by military coup leaders, known as the Junta. That followed the  the March 2 announcement by civil society groups of the Myanmar Military as a terrorist group. Their legitimacy and tactics are, in fact, those of terrorists rather than a government, as they have attacked democratically-elected government officials, and shot randomly into people’s homes in an attempt to quell a rising social movement in defense of President U Win Myint, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, other government officials, and civil society leaders. Continue reading

Yemen: Carnage or Strategy? What is the War Really About?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2021

By William R. Hawkins

Map of Yemen’s insurgency, according to published reports. Pink: Controlled by Hadi-led government. Green: Controlled by Revolutionary Committee. Tan: Controlled by Southern Transitional Council. White: Controlled by Ansar al-Sharia/AQAP forces. Grey: Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Blue: Controlled by local, non-aligned forces like the Hadhramaut Tribal Alliance. Salmon: Controlled by forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh. Source: Ali Zifan.

Every new President is challenged by foreign adversaries early in their term to test how U.S. policy may change with a new administration. Iran did not wait long to send its proxies into combat against American forces and allies. In Iraq, Shiite militia groups launched rockets attacks which wounded several Americans. On February 26, President Joe Biden sent air strikes against several related militia targets in Syria in retaliation. This seemed a continuation of President Donald Trump’s policy of muscular deterrence inaugurated by the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, while he was meeting with Iraqi militia leaders on January 3, 2020. President Biden sent a further message of deterrence to Tehran with a show of force by two B-52 strategic bombers escorted by Israeli fighters. The connection was important because an Israeli ship docked in Dubai was bombed by terrorists suspected of working for Iran on February 25.  

In Yemen, Iran’s proxy Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks by drones and ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia, targeting both population centers and oil industry targets. Every few days, another barrage is launched. On March 7, Houthi Brigadier Yahya Sareea claimed the group had fired 14 drones and eight missiles at Ras Tanura, one of the world’s biggest oil ports, and other targets near their border. In retaliation, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi renewed their air campaign in Yemen with strikes at the rebel-held capital of Sana’a and other key targets. The coalition had pulled back on their air strikes due to pressure from the U.S., but restraint by Riyad and Washington has only encouraged the rebels. Continue reading

“Winning” the Geopolitical Competition with China

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 2, February 2021

By Randall H. Cook

Source: Wikimedia

By all accounts, the U.S.-China strategic competition is alive and well.  The news that China displaced the United States in 2020 as the world’s preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was followed closely by publication of a new “Longer Telegram” proposing a U.S. whole of government strategy to contain PRC Premier Xi Jinping’s ambition to realign the geopolitical structure with China as the new fulcrum.  The Biden Administration has sharply changed tack from its predecessor on a range of policies.  But on China, there is remarkable continuity.  The Trump Administration reset the U.S. strategic paradigm and there will be no going back.  Complex interdependent engagement is out; realist bipolar competition is the name of the new (but really, a back to the future sort of) game.

This framing tends to draw commentators and policy makers into some familiar debates and blind alleys.  Shouldn’t the U.S. oppose Chinese influence everywhere and always?  Isn’t every Chinese advantage necessarily a U.S. loss?  If the U.S. has fallen behind in the FDI race, this conventional wisdom holds, then the U.S. must “do something” to win back the FDI flow.  While this elegant approach to ‘keeping score” in the geopolitical competition is intuitively appealing, it fails to account for a real world that, in fact, remains dynamic and complex.  Worse, it leads to a reactive approach to interpreting events and choosing strategies that ultimately will disadvantage the U.S. in the ways that matter most. Continue reading