THE discovery of mineral deposits in Afghanistan might pull that country out of poverty. The discovery was made by a team of American geologists and Pentagon officials, with about $1 trillion estimated as the value of the various minerals as being in the ground at present. According to the State Department spokesman making the announcement, the Department, USAID, the Commerce Department, the Geological Survey and the Pentagon, were working with Afghan experts to explore the minerals. The deposits include iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium. Lithium is used in manufacturing batteries for mobile phones and laptop computers, and a Pentagon memo has said that Afghanistan could become the Saudi Arabia of lithium. As if lithium was insufficient, the deposits also include niobium, a soft metal used in making superconducting steel, and large gold deposits. The Geological Surveys aerial surveys, which started in 2006, were based on data collected by the Soviets during their 1980s occupation of the country. Promising results led to a more sophisticated survey the following year. The discovery, according to the State Department, has the potential to give Afghanistan the resources needed to have a modern and legal economy, as opposed to the present narco-economy. This discovery might be good news for Afghanistan, but there are a certain number of implications that need to be kept in mind. First, it might be remembered that just as the original Soviet data led nowhere, so this discovery too may not lead to commercial exploitation. Already, the US State Department spokesman has predicted that it will be years before revenue can be expected. Second, and probably more serious for the ordinary Afghan, is the decrease in the likelihood of the USA going ahead with its planned withdrawal next year. It went into Afghanistan because it hoped to secure routes to the oilfields of Central Asia, but it will probably stay to exploit the mineral resources there. This merely provides an additional reason to remain there. The Afghan people should not be too happy that lithium has been discovered in such large quantities, because they can rest assured of only one thing. Indians, already in Afghanistan at the invitation of the Karzai regime, will be wondering how to turn this development to their advantage. They will be encouraged by the USA, which will see an opportunity to throw some scraps towards the country it wishes to prop up as a counterweight to China. Americans must be busy working out ways to take advantage of the lithium deposits discovered, and until they suck them out, they will not exit the country and leave it alone.