Communist China was one of the first countries to recognize the legitimacy of the Taliban during its occupation of Afghanistan. For those who are interested in geopolitics, this is not surprising. However, in addition to the real political and superpowers, there is another real, even material, reason: Afghanistan’s abundant mineral resources.
Despite being a poor country, Afghanistan has close to $ 1 trillion in untapped mineral reserves, many of which are rare minerals such as cobalt, nickel and copper. Used in everything from cell phones and laptops to medical and military equipment, these essential minerals are the building blocks of a modern, technologically advanced society. Afghanistan is considered to have the largest lithium reserves in the world, which is a key component of modern energy storage facilities, such as batteries and renewable energy.
As the world shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy, the demand for lithium is growing exponentially. The availability of these types of minerals as they shape the balance of power in the modern world will determine future geopolitics. Concerned about the United States, China accounts for not only 35 percent of the world’s total mineral supply, but also 70 percent of world production. In addition, China directly contributes 80 percent of the world’s rare earth income.
This could have serious consequences for US national and economic security. When the United States tries to hold China accountable for crimes against the Uighur people, such as the violation of Hong Kong’s sovereignty, or the country’s environment, China can use its dominant mineral supremacy to avoid real accountability. A.D. As the US-China trade war escalated in 2019, the Communist Party of China (CCP) inside newspaper warned that the Chinese government could export all the necessary minerals to the United States. This is not just empty talk. A.D. In 2010 CCP. He used the same risk of a diplomatic standoff with Japan to temporarily stop the export of minerals.
The supply of these essential minerals, especially lithium, will determine whether China has more control over the supply of the world to the Taliban. If the CCP successfully aligns itself with the Taliban and has a productive relationship to develop the country’s mineral resources, China will have an unstoppable foothold in the global clean energy competition.
Allowing the CCP’s influence on Afghanistan’s mineral resources would be counterproductive to the international community. Lithium is one of the most important minerals for clean energy, weakening China’s monopoly on greenhouse gas emissions and weakening the world’s geopolitical position.
Fortunately, there are several steps we can take to address this problem. First and foremost, the United States must establish reliable, domestic supply chains for key minerals to remain competitive in the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. While progressive environmentalists often view mining as a bad thing, the fact is that we are mining here more sustainably than in China. Mineral stimulation is very important in the United States, for example by encouraging large-scale capital investment and simplifying the licensing process.
Second, the United States needs to multiply beyond lithium-ion batteries to meet our energy needs.
Rich Powell from ClearPath recently said, “Developers are exploring solutions for lithium sources locally, but also for graded-level storage over lithium-ion batteries.” Of course, companies like Lilacs Solutions are looking to make domestic lithium extraction more efficient, but many other energy storage technologies are also promising. These other types of energy storage, from pump storage water to metal-air batteries, expand and create, providing lithium-ion dependence options. Innovation in these technologies is essential to clean up energy diversity.
However, it should not be forgotten that lithium-ion batteries are still the fastest growing energy storage technology in the United States, and costs have dropped by 88 percent over the past decade. Third, the United States must seek to build closer ties with other countries with significant mineral resources, such as Australia, South Africa, and India. Chinese dependence on the acquisition of essential minerals such as lithium is highly desirable. In addition, sharing innovation, launching joint mining projects, and building closer ties with other countries is crucial to creating an unfriendly Chinese supply chain for the United States.
Finally, the United States must oppose China’s activities in Afghanistan and its growing monopoly on domestic minerals, technology, and non-Chinese supply chains. The future of pure U.S. energy for CCP. Nor should it be seen by the Taliban.
Christopher Barnard is a regular contributor to the US National Security Agency (ACC) National Policy Director and various news outlets.