US Launches Airstrikes in First Operation Targeting Afghan Opium

Pakistan       by Mahmood Idrees | Published

"They made a decision to stop attacking cities, trying to seize and hold terrain, and instead shift to suicide attacks and attempts to inflict casualties to prove their relevance", Nicholson said.

U.S. and Afghan forces conducted a series of strikes over the past 24 hours against Taliban drug labs, to target the revenue streams of the terrorists, according to the Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces Afghanistan commander.

"The criminal networks that support the taliban are responsible for 85% of the heroin produced in the world", said general Nicholson, in noting that this economy underground earns about $ 200 million to the taliban-and even more so when the heroine leaves the country and increases its value.

American aircraft have targeted drug producing facilities in Afghanistan for the first time under a new strategy aimed at cutting off Taliban funding, the top United States general in the country said on Monday. In September, we saw them, in the face of these tactical setbacks, take a knee and change their tactics. He added that there are 13 major drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan, of which seven are in Helmand.

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

Nicholson said the Taliban had evolved into a "narco insurgency" fighting to protect earnings from drug trafficking, illegal mining, kidnapping and murder for hire.

"Narcotics revenue represents the largest single source of funding for the Taliban and as we know the Taliban are making more money than they need to fight their campaign".

Nicholson said the operation was the first "significant" time he had used the new authorities.

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The anti-narcotics operation and stepped up battlefield attacks are aimed at pressuring and compelling the Taliban to join an Afghan reconciliation process, said Nicholson.

"Based on the new authorities I've received in the last 90 days with the USA policy announcement, we started developing targets immediately", he said. USA and Afghan military commanders have long alleged neighboring Pakistan is sheltering the insurgents and not taking action against them despite public pledges.

General Nicholson characterized the Taliban as a criminal drug organization masquerading as religious and political leaders.

"There is nothing true in there, there was no site of production there",-he said.

For the first time, U.S. Air Force F22A Raptors operated in Afghanistan, principally due to their ability to mitigate civilian casualties and inadvertent damage by employing small diameter bombs during U.S. airstrikes. The strikes were carried out under new authorities in the current U.S. Afghan strategy, he explained.

In 2017, the Taliban failed to meet any of their military objectives.

"It is time for the Taliban to lay down their arms and reconcile", said Lt. Gen. Yaftali.

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