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Afghanistan’s Lapis Lazuli is a ‘Conflict Mineral’ Fueling War in the Country

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By SisiBroad | June 9, 2016 12:00 am

Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is helping fuel the war that has long ravaged the country, with armed anti-government groups, including the Taliban, earning up to $20 million a year from illegal mining of lapis lazuli, a London-based corruption watchdog said on Monday.

The total earned by armed groups in 2014 was $19.9 million, the group added, noting that a local strongman identified as Abdul Malek had paid $750,000 in protection money to the Taliban out of proceeds from the illegal lapis lazuli mining. Last year, Malek paid the Taliban $4 million, the report says.3

Afghanistan's Lapis Lazuli is a 'Conflict Mineral' Fueling War in the Country

Afghanistan’s Lapis Lazuli is a ‘Conflict Mineral’ Fueling War in the Country

Much of the illegal lapis lazuli exports go to China, “where it is prized as jewelry,” Global Witness says. “The fact that Chinese lapis sales are funding the Taliban comes in contrast to the Chinese government’s official position as peace-broker on Afghanistan in regional security talks.” Beijing is part of four-country consultations with Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States aimed at bringing the Taliban into a peace dialogue to end the war.

In a report last year, the U.S. government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said Afghanistan’s minerals and hydrocarbons sector had the potential to “provide the Afghan government with billions in much needed funds in the coming decades.”

But SIGAR also questioned Kabul’s ability to develop the sector in a sustainable and coordinated way, noting that the $488 million that the U.S. government has invested to help develop Afghanistan’s extractive industries “could be wasted.”

“These lapis mines are one of the richest assets of the Afghan people and should be driving development and prosperity,” said Stephen Carter, the Afghan campaign leader for Global Witness. “The mines provide a tiny fraction of the benefit they should, and have become a major source of conflict and grievance.”

The Taliban are expected to step up attacks this year as their new leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, moves to consolidate his position after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan last month.

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