United States targets Taliban drug labs under new Afghan strategy


The US conducted airstrikes targeting opium processing labs in Afghanistan Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Andrews tells CNN.

Three of the strikes were in Kajaki district, four in Musa Qalah district and one in Sangin district.

In Afghanistan, like in Somalia, Trump has given his commanders greater authority to strike targets, such as drug labs used by the Taliban for its lucrative opium production. The advanced stealth fighter aircraft is based at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates and required refueling support from KC-10 and KC-135 aircraft to reach the target.

"Their fight on terror is the most important fight in the world, and it's a fight on behalf of us, as well as them", Nicholson said.

The general said a 2,000-lb bomb was used to destroy a facility and 50 barrels of opium, which held a street value of millions of USA dollars. In addition, the Afghan Air Force has conducted an increasing number of airstrikes using their US-supplied A-29 light attack turbo-prop aircraft.

"The strikes that were prosecuted last night will continue", Mr Nicholson told a news conference in Kabul, stressing that poppy farmers would not be targeted.

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One way that Nicholson hopes to increase pressure on the Taliban is to curb their financing, and he showed videos to Pentagon reporters of USA strikes in recent days against Taliban opium factories.

"While the cowardliness and the frequency of terror attacks in Afghanistan have reached new heights, and the terrorists continue to gain territory and resources of the Afghan people, unfortunately, here in this body, we have witnessed little change", the Indian representative at the United Nations said. The Pentagon believes the Taliban earns about $200 million annually from the opium trade. USA officials estimated that insurgents generate an estimated $200 million a year from poppy cultivation and opium production. The Drug Enforcement Administration reports there are as many as 400 to 500 such facilities across the country.

General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that the military conducted strikes on the production facilities Sunday in Helmand province by a F-22 attack plane and B-52 bombers. "This reveals their evolution into a narco-insurgency". "Our message to the Afghans is very straightforward: 'We are with you, and we will stay with you, '" he said.

He said the new counternarcotics campaign "hits the enemy where it hurts, which is their financial apparatus".

"We hit the labs where they turned poppy into heroin".

"The fighting that they're doing is to control the means of production, to control the poppy fields, to force farmers into growing poppy and then be able to process this opium into heroin in the relative safety of these areas", he said.