Interesting WSJ piece on USG report saying that it'll cost about $50B to build a sufficiently pervasive RR network across Afghanistn for the country to exploit it estimated $1T in mineral resources. Various routes are examined and, pretty much in each case, the argument is that the benefits won't recoup the costs involved.
We are told the Chinese are making their own calculations regarding their pledge to invest $3.5B to develop the Aynak copper project outside Kabul.
Every RR map of South Asia shows a dead spot that is Afghanistan. The long-term reality there has been: not even reason locally (opportunities, markets, population, resources, security, etc.) to trigger the infrastructure development that shifts the country from extremely disconnected to connected enough for overall economic development to be triggered.
The Afghans had hoped they had found a critical mass for jump-starting this process in minerals. But, when priced by the West, this seems unlikely.
It'll be interesting to see, over time, if Indian and China calculations work better. Then again, both countries are likely to place different prices on many of the same items (including labor they themselves may export to accomplish the tasks) because it's their neighborhood, instead of distant geo-pol burden. China's and India's fears about reliable access to resources as they rise also leads to different pricing, something we've seen in spades with the Chinese over time (as they've paid above-market prices tp secure access).
Still, you have to credit the DoD for encouraging Afghanistan down this path. There are simply some hugely difficult realities to be overcome, realities that have kept Afghanistan Afghanistan for all these centuries.