So you’re a Middle East guy [of course now meaning Afghanistan too] what does Afghanistan have? I mean, why did Obama send more troops to a place with what? Rugs?
While I don't profess to know "this answer," for surely Obama for himself has gave his own answer, I can point in a interesting direction: this New York Times article. For the question above assumes that Afghanistan, like Iraq, has some massive reserve of resources that we, as Americans, want for ourselves. I don't particularly buy this now popularized argument-- for example Saddam sold to anyone with cash. Yet, the idea that we invaded Iraq for oil--and oil alone--still exists within many Arabs and American liberals alike.
If we must, however, answer the question--"what Afghanistan has"--then surely it is copper. And the Chinese are developing it.
You can read the article for yourself, but this caught my eye:
“The Chinese are much wiser. When we went to talk to the local people, they wore civilian clothing, and they were very friendly,” he said recently during a long chat in his Kabul apartment. “The Americans — not as good. When they come there, they have their uniforms, their rifles and such, and they are not as friendly.”
"...Instead, China’s foreign policy is based on commerce. Its state-owned companies have been snapping up energy and mineral resources worldwide for years now, often by overwhelming competitors with lavish offers."
Call me crazy, but it sounds like the Chinese are vastly outbidding other countries and in the long run, saving both money and troops by not trying to micro-manage statecraft; they leave it to locals. In a way, the Sons of Iraq program, later called the Awakening Councils, was an American version of this idea. (America paid off former Sunni insurgents in Iraq to battle al-Qaeda and keep their own security.)
I suppose this brings us back to the heavy vs. light footprint paradigm. And to this Casbah , it seems like the Chinese have got themselves into a situation where America and NATO are in charge of Afghan security, while they profit from the copper.