As President Donald Trump recently declared the U.S. is "getting very close" to a strategy aimed at turning the tide of Afghanistan's prolonged and bloody conflict, there's more at stake than just military victory.
The Trump administration is under increasing pressure to sway the course of the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers and left at least 20,000 wounded. "We must face facts; we are losing in Afghanistan, and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide," Sen. John McCain said this month, after announcing he would introduce a new Afghan strategy.
Since 2001, the U.S. has spent an estimated $714 billion in war and reconstruction in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) July report. That comes to about $3.9 billion a month to run the Afghan war.
Trump is seeking a military win in Afghanistan, but American efforts there may yet reap financial gains. Afghanistan possesses rare minerals crucial for industrial manufacturing, including copper, gold, uranium and fossil fuels — making the country ripe for development that can boost the economy and fund its reconstruction. In a partial survey conducted by the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, the country's mineral wealth is estimated at $3 trillion, more than enough to compensate for the war's cost.
The U.S. president has previously expressed interest in Afghanistan's vast mineral deposits as a tool for stabilizing the country. The White House is considering sending an envoy to Afghanistan to explore mining possibilities, the opening salvo in what is likely to be a long-term effort to harness the country's natural resources.
"Since the Afghanistan mission is predominantly seen from a military point-of-view in the U.S., I am assuming that it was meant to draw attention to other opportunities and facts that offer strategic and win-win prospects," Afghan government spokesperson Javid Faisal told CNBC in an email.