Nargis Nehan is working to reform a troubled ministry and get Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources out of the ground.
As a female politician in a country where many women still struggle for basic rights, Nargis Nehan is used to standing out. In December 2017, at age 38, she was the only woman of 12 acting ministers seeking confirmation to the cabinet by Afghanistan’s parliament. Winning approval to remain head of the ministry of mines and petroleum was the highest-profile test of her political career—and initially it seemed like she’d failed.
Afghanistan’s rugged, landlocked terrain holds vast mineral wealth, including Hajigak, one of the world’s largest iron deposits, as well as copper, gold, lithium, chromite, manganese-rich forms of columbite and tantalite, precious and semiprecious stones, rare-earth metals, and uranium. Some estimates peg the collective value of these resources at $1 trillion or more—if they can be brought to market despite extreme security, logistical, and political challenges.
When President Ashraf Ghani appointed Nehan acting minister in 2016, with a mandate to reform the sector and attract international investment, she knew she’d be fighting corrupt, entrenched interests. “I never learned the art of keeping quiet, and I don’t want to learn it,” she says, sitting in her heavily guarded office in Kabul. By the time she came up for confirmation, she’d been in the job almost a year. She’d upset some powerful people by canceling a number of irregular-looking contracts, and she’d refused, she says, to engage in the horse-trading and bribery that commonly precede confirmation votes. “All my friends were telling me, ‘Look, you’re going to lose,’ ” Nehan says. They proved correct. “Deep down I kind of knew,” she says. Yet it stung to learn she’d been the only one rejected.
The apparent sexism of the decision brought an outcry from civil society. “MPs started fighting amongst themselves,” she recalls. “They were blaming each other, like, ‘Why did we do this?’ ” In the end, Ghani kept her on without pushback from parliament. “I said, ‘Now that you didn’t give me the vote, that means I can double and triple my reform.’ ”
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
It's the Economy, Stupide
France’s president has an ace up his sleeve as he seeks a second term
Georgia On Our Minds, Again
The Southern state will be the stage for more high-stakes political drama
Fur Tries to SHED Its Image, Again
The industry is betting a new certification program will win back consumers worried over animal welfare
The New Web Vs. the Old Web
Meet Web3, which could replace the Big Tech powers, or be co-opted by them
Cheap, Focused, Mobile—and Not a Bank
How Silicon Valley is winning the money of young consumers
The feds are starting to allocate billions of dollars to pull CO2 from the air. They’ve got a lot of work to do
Velvet Glove Back country
A new generation discovers a love of the great outdoors—provided posh creature comforts come with it
There's Still No Amazon For Buying Houses
Real estate is a big, complex transaction, so companies are focused on making specific parts easier
Gary Gensler Eyes Rules for Robots
The SEC chair who shook up crypto is asking how algorithms might influence investors
The Drugs Are Working
The first step toward fulfilling a New Year’s resolution just might be a class of prescription weight loss pills and shots. The next steps: Getting patients and doctors to trust them and insurers to cover them
Afghanistan – The Long Road Ahead
The war may be over, but for refugees from the Taliban the battle has just begun
Biden's Benghazi Moment
How the deadly Kabul AIRPORT ATTACK and bungled Afghanistan pullout could HAUNT HIS PRESIDENCY–and cost him the midterms.
Infant lost in chaos of Afghanistan airlift found, returned to his family
THE CHILD WAS TWO MONTHS OLD WHEN HE WENT MISSING ON AUGUST 19; OVERJOYED FAMILY SAYS 'IT'S JUST LIKE A WEDDING'
Taliban deputy PM calls for aid without bias
THE Taliban’s deputy prime minister on Friday urged the global community to offer support to Afghan people without any “political bias” as the country faces a major humanitarian crisis.
India sends five lakh doses of Covid vaccines to Afghanistan
Ex-Afghan leader says he fled nation to ‘save Kabul'
He says two Taliban factions were closing in, denies claims that he stole millions of dollars
ARMY CHIEF'S SHOCK & AWE
We were in dark about Taliban
Rangers escaped Afghan suicide bomb by an hour
ARMY Ranger Wing soldiers on an Afghan mercy mission escaped a bloody suicide bomb attack by just an hour, it has emerged.
After Taliban takeover, India sends first tranche of medical aid to Kabul
1.6 tonnes of life-saving drugs to be handed to WHO
‘I Haven't Seen A Day Of Peace In My Life'
Faced with an uncertain present, women and girls in Afghanistan hope the new Taliban regime will ease the restrictions on them and that the international community will intervene. For now, their only option is to stay strong and reconcile their dreams with the current reality.