Airstrikes targeting opium processing labs in Afghanistan were conducted by U.S. troops Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Andrews told CNN.
The airstrikes were part of a joint U.S.-Afghan operation targeting drug facilities in Helmand Province, an area controlled by the Taliban. They were conducted by U.S. F-16s out of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and U.S. B-52s flying out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon that a U.S. F-22 Raptor and Afghan Air Force A-29s also participated in the strikes.
The Trump administration’s new South Asia policy has given Nicholson the authority to declare war on Afghan drugs.
“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. So, this money is going into the pockets of Taliban leaders who are living safely outside of the country,” Nicholson explained to Voice of America.
Under the new policy Trump unveiled in August, an additional 3,000 American troops have arrived in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has increased airstrikes against the Taliban and terrorists linked to the Afghan branch of the Islamic State.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani announced the operation via Twitter on Monday, saying that Afghan forces supported by international troops “launched operations in Helmand to abolish opium processing labs” and that eight labs were destroyed.
“We’re determined to tackle[the] criminal economy and narcotics trafficking with full force,” Ghani said, calling drugs “the main source of financing (for) violence and terror.”
Last night, Afghan and US forces launched operations in Helmand to abolish opium processing labs. 8 labs were destroyed on day one. We’re determined to tackle criminal economy and narcotics trafficking with full force. It’s the main source of financing violence and terror.
— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) November 20, 2017