What do these countries have in common? For the purposes of this blog post, they were all featured in important natural security news over the weekend.
Let’s start with Friday: in The Washington Post Rajiv Chandrasekaran highlighted a rift between the civilian and military leadership on how to increase electricity in Kandahar as part of the hearts and minds campaign there. On one side are advocates for a major purchase of diesel generators and requisite fuel; on the other, a harder look at improving the city’s electrical systems and reducing inefficiencies (both human and electric) to increase energy supplies. He writes:
Military and civilian officials also remain divided over whether increasing electricity in Kandahar will have a substantial effect on the security situation there. Military officers in southern Afghanistan maintain that if residents' power supply increases, they will have a better opinion of their government and employment will increase, which will help to marginalize the Taliban…But embassy and USAID officials contend that Kandahar residents are more concerned about the lack of a credible justice system and the dearth of employment. Civilian officials say small generators could be used to reopen factories and run cold-storage facilities, but they worry that increasing electricity across the board will lead more people to buy air conditioners and refrigerators, resulting in a continued shortage.
Instead of buying fuel, Eikenberry and other embassy personnel want the electric utility in Kandahar to do a better job of collecting fees and to use the money to buy fuel for the generators it already has, which would increase supply but not eliminate the shortage. USAID is offering help through its Afghanistan Clean Energy Program, a $100 million effort to promote "green" power in the war zone. The agency plans to install solar-powered streetlights in the city this year. It is also paying for repairs to some of the existing generators, but it will not buy diesel for them.
We will all be speaking at CNAS's huge - huge - event next Wednesday on natural resources and security! This is public, dear readers, and your chance to be in the room for the event listed below. We are thrilled and honored to be hosting this amazing group. Note that the invitation below also links to our just-released report on climate change and DOD, which includes chapters on maritime, air and ground forces and the combatant commands. Enjoy the report, and we hope to see you all next week.
Director of External Relations
Ph: (202) 457-9408
Deputy Director of External Relations
Ph: (202) 457-941
Yesterday’s attack on the U.S. consulate in Peshawar has brought the insurgency in western Pakistan back into the headlines. The consulate serves as the headquarters for ongoing American assistance programs in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and is a symbol of U.S.-Pakistani cooperation.
The FATA, specifically North and South Waziristan provinces, remains “al-Qaeda’s principal sanctuary” and hosts a syndicate of regional insurgent networks. The United States and Pakistan have increased pressure on militants in the lawless region during the last two years but have yet to solidify a permanent presence to counter militant influence. American foreign assistance and Pakistani development efforts offer the potential to deny the Taliban and its al Qaeda affiliated allies control over critical infrastructure and the local economy.
In remarks last week, Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the commander of the Pakistani Frontier Corps, lobbied for increased development efforts in the tribal areas, saying that “the world mustn’t neglect the area as it did after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, or it could fall prey again to al Qaeda and its allies.”
Development and maintenance of an extractive mineral industry could revolutionize the Waziristan economy and infrastructure in the long-term. Indeed, ongoing efforts in Afghanistan must be matched “across the border in FATA” according to Barnett Rubin and Abubakar Siddique in a 2006 USIP report. “FATA’s isolation can be broken only by improving its infrastructure…Proper utilization of several known mineral deposits in FATA will result in the growth of labor-intensive mining and manufacturing industries in marbles and precious stones.”
Issues of Natural Security often seem to liken themselves to the work of Rube Goldberg. The actions of one state can sometimes have devastating knock-on effects down the pipeline, often so far removed that the connections in between can be difficult to identify.
Kanye West’s 2005 song Diamonds from Sierra Leone examines one such chain reaction which begins with jewelry and, after a series of actions usually far more sobering than the traditional Goldberg contraption, ties into the brutal instability of Sierra Leone. The conflict mineral phenomenon is not limited to diamonds. It burrows deep into the tin, tungsten, and tantalum mines of places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Darfur. Access to coveted natural resources offers warlords and others the ability to fuel deadly and destabilizing resource wars, which some describe as “the deadliest conflict globally since World War II.”
Mr. West, Imma let you finish this post:
Good morning, this ain’t Vietnam; still
people lose legs, hands, arms. For real.
Little is known of Sierra Leone
and how it connects to the diamonds we own
Yesterday, I caught a webcast of the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight hearing over Rare Earth Minerals and 21st Century Industry. A hearing I might feel more comfortable calling “Surprise! China has all the stuff: a rare earth tale.” Witnesses included: Dr. Stephen Freimann, retired Deputy Director of the Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Dr. Steven Duclos, Chief Scientist and Manager, Material Sustainability, GE Global Research; Dr. Karl A. Gschneider, Jr., of the Ames Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy; Mark Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Molycorp Minerals, LLC; and Terence Stewart, Managing Partner in the Law Offices of Stewart and Stewart.
Here are some of the important, though largely depressing, highlights:
*Disclaimer: I'm just highlighting what these panelists claimed; I'm not researching them or fact checking for the purpose of this post. We'll debate these perspectives and try to poke holes in the stats later among ourselves, maybe over St. Patrick's Day drinks.