This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson, his latest book Asgaard explores the role of US military Contractors in far flung parts of the globe. D. Alan Johnson is well equipped to write not only Asgaard, but also this article. He is what he writes about! Since the mid 1980’s he has been a private military contractor – Simon

The news out yesterday talked about the contracts being let in Afghanistan to mine copper and iron ore. In the ‘60’s the Soviets surveyed the mountains close to Kabul and confirmed that world-class deposits of copper, iron, and coal lay just under the surface, suitable for open pit mining.

As the security situation has improved around this region, thanks to the blood of coalition soldiers (mostly American), the Afghan government handed out Requests for Bids for these mining concessions.

The Chinese won the copper concession, and they are far and away the top bidder for the iron ore concession. These are the items that the Chinese agreed to for the copper mining concession:

•    To build a power plant large enough to supply the mines and part of Kabul
•    To build a railroad from China to Tajikistan.
•    To build a smelter and smelt the ore on site.
•    To hire Afghanis and have 100% Afghan employees in ten years.
•    To pay a higher premium to the Afghan government than other bidders.

The iron contract is rumored to contain provisions to mine both coal and iron, and set up Afghanistan as a steel producer.

My question is: “Where are the American companies?” Are the Chinese better mining engineers than the Americans?  I don’t think so.

Then what can the answer be? One spokesman said that it will take ten years for these mines to be profitable. Is it that American companies only focus on quarterly earnings, then? Because I can guarantee you that copper and iron will still be in demand ten years from now.

Are we so short sighted that we allow our competitors to steal these huge contracts out from under our noses after we paid in blood and treasure for the security to extract these minerals?

And what of American jobs? We need jobs. Would it have been too much to ask that our State Department intervene on behalf of American companies so that we could land the thousands of jobs for engineers, accountants, managers, construction workers, truck drivers, mechanics, and support staff?

We can manage to spend almost a trillion dollars to bail out bankers and brokers making over a million dollars a year, but not a dime to drivers and welders who are out of work.

In decades to come, the Afghans will look to the Chinese for more and more since they have shown themselves to be generous, to offer infrastructure and more money for the natural resources.Afghans will buy Chinese replacement parts for the rail cars and bulldozers, for the generators and pumps, and for the helicopters and the airliners. Instead of being sold on American quality, they will be sold on Chinese quality. We will never be able to break into that market.

What were we thinking?

Indeed, what have we been thinking – Simon

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