By MATTHEW ROSENBERG July 5, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials and their American backers made a small step this week toward securing the big-name Western foreign investment they have long sought for Afghanistan: Exxon Mobil is weighing a bid on a modest oil concession in the country’s north, Afghan officials and the company said Thursday.
Afghan and American officials eagerly cast Exxon Mobil’s expression of interest in the concession — six blocks of land being auctioned by the government — as a sign of confidence in Afghanistan, even though there was no guarantee that the company would actually bid.
Yet simply by showing interest, Exxon Mobil could bolster the American position here, American officials said. The move could also help muffle criticism in Washington, especially among Republicans, that China is reaping the gains of a war fought and paid for largely by the United States. Companies owned by the Chinese government previously won a smaller oil and gas concession in an Afghan government tender that was aided by a Pentagon task force focused on securing investment in Afghanistan, as well as the rights to a sizable copper deposit.
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