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Letter: Why we need Afghanistan

I've often wondered why Afghanistan has always been such a magnet for foreign countries that would make them want to consistently invade their privacy. As everyone should be aware by now, the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan before we moved in to take their place. The Soviets had to pull out because they couldn't make any headway.

So what's the attraction that seems to draw so much attention? One website claims it's a result of the huge demand for illegal drugs in this country, and that we're there to protect the poppy fields. Another website claims that we're there to provide protection for a large pipeline that's being constructed to deliver crude oil across Afghanistan. The workers were constantly under attack from members of the various tribal factions. In an effort to complete the project safely, the pipeline workers insisted on having military protection.

There could also be other valid reasons for being in Afghanistan, however, there's one reason I've never heard before today. It turns out that Afghanistan has huge deposits of what we like to refer as "rare-earth" metals. These are key ingredients that are used to support 21st century technology, and are used to manufacture everything from cell phones to digital cameras, from computer screens to hybrid car batteries, as well as in manufacturing precision military weapons.

Projections reveal that we only have a five- to 10-year supply of these hard-to-find rare metals, and in the world of technology, 10 years is a rather short time.

Strategic planning for locating and developing new sources of these materials can take decades before they become functional. As of now, manufacturers in the U.S., and around the world, have been forced to purchase 90 to 95 percent of these rare metals from China, and China has threatened to severely restrict, or to even impose a complete ban on the sale of rare-earth metals to the rest of the world. As a result, technology manufacturers are in a state of panic.

In the final analysis, Afghanistan could turn out to have more valuable assets than anyone ever envisioned!

Norm Baker