WASHINGTON—According to a new State Department report, Afghanistan's more than $900 billion worth of untapped iron, copper, lithium, and other minerals could transform the nation from a graft-laden backwater into a modern, 21st-century hub of corruption. "Afghanistan's crooked political system currently relies solely on the small-time bribes of opium peddlers, but these highly sought-after natural resources could usher in a bright new era of illegitimate government maneuvering," said M. Farhan Sajadi, associate professor of Central Asian Studies at Hofstra University. "Officials will soon be able to embezzle, extort, and receive under-the-table kickbacks from major international conglomerates on a scale that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. This is a major leap forward for Afghan kleptocracy." Responding to concerns that the nation's future mining profits would enrich only a handful of elite powerbrokers in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai vowed that he would do everything in his power to fairly distribute the wealth to even the most distant members of his family.