Published: Tue, November 21, 2017
Global | By Shelia Dennis

US, Afghan aircraft target Taliban's poppy facilities

US, Afghan aircraft target Taliban's poppy facilities

The Taliban prohibited poppy cultivation when they governed the country in the late 1990s, but have since come to rely on it as they wage an increasingly potent insurgency against the government and its foreign backers.

While last night's strikes targeted locations in Helmand where poppy is processed into illegal opiate drugs such as heroin, Gen. John Nicholson, commander, USFOR-A, said the strikes are just the beginning, and it represents the us and global will to defeat terror and the criminals who support terrorists. We hit their storage facilities where they keep their final product, where they stockpile their money and their command and control.

Gen. Nicholson said the global value of poppy cultivated in Afghanistan is in billions of dollars, and the Taliban earner up to $200 million from it on annual basis. United States troops have always been accused of causing unnecessary collateral damage and civilian deaths.

Image U.S. Army General John Nicholson Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan speaks during a news conference in Kabul Afghanistan
U.S. Army General John Nicholson in Kabul. Mohammad Ismail Reuters

Thirteen drug-trafficking organizations control the opium trade in Afghanistan - seven of which are in Helmand.

Afghan Chief of Army Staff General Sharif Yaftali welcomed the move against the Taliban, which he called "a criminal group" benefiting from the narcotics business.

Critics have long blamed the booming Afghan narcotics industry for being a major cause of prolonged hostilities and deteriorating security conditions in the country.

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Opium production in Afghanistan has reached a record high of 810,000 acres this year - up 87 percent from last year, the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime reported last week.

"The new authorities" granted by Mr. Trump in August "allow me to go after revenue streams of the enemy", General Nicholson said.

"This is going to be steady pressure that's going to stay up and we are not going to let up", he said.

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Nicholson said the attacks were part of US President Donald Trump's new policy towards Afghanistan as he boosts troop numbers.

The U.S. forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) have launched joint operations with the Afghan forces against the militants' poppy processing facilities in the country, the Kabul government announced on Monday, APA reports quoting Anadolu Agency.

A USA defense official told CNN that USA aircraft had since launched additional strikes against Taliban-linked opium facilities in addition to the 10 Nicholson announced. The security forces are fearless and have sacrificed much, he said, adding that their capacity is growing and they are doing well in the battlefield. This illustrates a shift in operations as USFOR-A attacks insurgent network economic lines in previously un-targeted safe havens in the South and Southwest.

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"We have had numerous high-level engagements between the United States and Pakistan so that we can get Pakistan to work with us in eliminating these safe havens of the enemy".

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