US and Afghan forces have targeted 11 Taliban-linked, drug-production facilities in Afghanistan’s western provinces of Farah and Nimruz, the NATO-led ‘Resolute Support’ mission announced in a 7 April statement.
The precision air strikes, which were carried out between 3 and 5 April using US F-16 fighters, A-10 ground attack aircraft, and MQ-9 Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were the first to be conducted in western Afghanistan in support of a new campaign aimed at destroying the revenue streams, training facilities, and support networks of the insurgent group.
“The Taliban will have no safe havens. We will continue to exploit their networks and decimate their ability to develop narcotics,” said US Air Force (USAF) Major General James Hecker, commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan.
“They have become a criminal organisation that profits from selling drugs and using those funds to conduct operations that maim and kill Afghans. By cutting off the Taliban’s economic lifelines, we also reduce their ability to continue these terrorist activities,” he added.
The recent air strikes took place as advisors from the Train, Advise, Assist Command-West (TAAC-W) under ‘Resolute Support’ were conducting an ‘Expeditionary Advisory Package’ with the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in Farah Province. The TAAC-W is in charge of advising teams to ensure better co-ordination of operations against the Taliban in Farah.
According to the statement, about 75 strikes against Taliban-linked narcotics-production facilities in Afghanistan have been carried out since the ‘counter-revenue campaign’ began in November 2017.
This new campaign became possible after Washington granted new authorities to US military personnel in Afghanistan as part of US President Donald Trump’s new ‘South Asia strategy’, allowing them to collaborate with Afghan forces to actively pursue and attack “terrorist elements”.