Welcome to Afghanistan's Green Zone

In the Panjshir Valley, locals eke out a rough living mining emeralds by hand.
Azrat Mohammed tunnels mountainside

While many Afghan communities turn to opium poppies and cannabis to scrape out a living, these Panjshiris, who have no viable farmland, try to blast their way out of poverty by extracting emeralds from the mountain rock. Afghanistan is facing the daunting prospect of a large reduction in foreign aid, which now makes up about 90 percent of the country's revenue. Geological surveys around the country have shown large deposits of valuable minerals, including uranium and lithium. And while Afghanistan is said to be sitting on $1 trillion in mineral wealth, mining firms are reluctant to invest in such an unstable region—and one that could grow even more so in the next two years, as America withdraws most of its troops. So for now, the emerald-rich Panjshir Valley is mined by hand.