Dealer of Afghan gems provides insight into a country few Americans know

Gem dealer Gary Bowersox of Honolulu says that Western nations should “surgically remove” Osama bin Laden and that the countries have the ability to go into Afghanistan and do it.

And Bowersox should know. The owner of GeoVisions has been working with and traveling into Afghanistan for more than 30 years.

Dressed in native garb, Bowersox travels into the mountain regions of northern Afghanistan to bring back an array of gems. “We bring out emeralds, ruby, sapphires, kunzite, tourmaline, aquamarine, morganite, and, of course, what they’re famous for is their lapis,” Bowersox says.

In Afghanistan, the rebel Northern Alliance has been fighting the ruling Taliban ever since commander Ahmed Masood-who led the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s-let the Taliban take over the capital city of Kabul in 1996. The front line is now only 18 to 20 miles north of Kabul, Bowersox says. Tajikistan, a republic of the former Soviet Union, is directly to the north.

“Bin Laden and the [rebel] war have come within 15 miles of the emerald mines,” Bowersox says.

Masood was assassinated just three days before the terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11. Bowersox believes the assassination was part of the terrorists’ plan.

Bowersox says Russia would be willing to work with the United States in its new war against terrorism. “However, when the Russians tried to do something about these people from Bin Laden that were in Chechnya, the U.S. got all over Russia for causing problems in Chechnya,” he says. “Now they’re looking at us and saying, `See?’ “

He also claims that Pakistan has wanted to take over Afghanistan for years, and Masood was not about to let that happen. Masood’s soldiers number about 15,000. Bin Laden has about 5,000 soldiers, who are Arab, not Afghans, Bowersox says.

“They’ll have to go in and surgically remove bin Laden. And that’s possible,” says Bowersox. “He was within forty miles of the gem expedition this past go, and he has 5,000 Arab troops with him.”

“Masood’s people should be able to get to Bin Laden with technical and arms support from the U.S., but that will not be the end of it. Then again, you can’t sit and do nothing.”

Bowersox is scheduled to go to Washington, D.C., on Monday, Sept. 24, to meet with high government officials.

Bowersox says it will be a year or more before any more gems come out of Afghanistan. Production was down this year anyway, for two reasons: Miners there have skimmed the cream from the emerald and lapis mines already, and they need technology-which they don’t yet have access to-to get at the rest. Second, most of the miners are involved in the war, so they have a manpower problem.

Sales since he’s been back are about half what they were last year, but that’s partly because of the economy. “But then with this disruption, it’s really put people in a state that they’re not going to buy luxury goods,” says Bowersox. “So this is going to be a ripple effect throughout the whole industry.”

Bowersox has stopped wearing his turban. “I’m wearing American clothes now,” he says with a laugh. He’s had a few sympathy purchases in the past few days because people have been coming to his slide show every year, and many know that he has been supporting Masood and the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, and against Bin Laden.

During his most recent trip, from which he returned on Aug. 31, he took a film crew with him to document the emerald and lapis mines. The documentary footage will air on television sometime next summer.

Bowersox’s Web site (www.Gems-Afghan.com) is known as “the Afghan connection” and has for years advertised “Gemstones from Afghanistan.”