The Taliban’s source of power in Afghanistan, opium estimated at creating $200 million in annual income, will now be the target of American offensive airstrikes. President Trump has officially reversed the strategy of the Obama Administration, in which airstrikes had to be defensive and conducted in proximity to Afghan forces on the ground. Now, the US can “seek and destroy” the Taliban’s drug labs that have funded their reign of terror in Afghanistan.
The Washington Examiner reports that Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson told media: “These new authorities give me the ability to go after the enemy in ways that I couldn’t before… We’re hitting the Taliban where it hurts, which is their finances.” Moreover, instead of waiting out the winter season, the US will be able to target drug production facilities, putting increasing pressure on the Taliban. Nicholson told reporters that this new strategy will send a message to the terror group that they “cannot win the war,” and that: “It’s time to lay down your arms and enter into a reconciliation process.” The general also reported that the Taliban has become a full-fledged “narco-insurgency,” with drug profits exceeding operating expenses.
The military has been planning the strikes for three months, to ensure the precise locations of Taliban drug production facilities would be hit with the correct munitions. For this mission, the Air Force will be putting its F-22 fighters to work. This month, the Afghan Air Force has already bombed two drug labs with their A-29 Super Tucanos, and the US destroyed eight other targets with B-52s and an F-22.
General Nicholson stated that mission success would be declared when the Afghan government is able to take “at least 80 percent” control of their country back from the Taliban, which currently controls 66 percent. Nicholson estimated that this could “take about two years.” Meanwhile, Reuters has reported an increase in the number of civilian casualties fro the coalition and Afghan air strikes and a sharp increase in “insider attacks” by militants against US and Afghan forces.
The Afghan Taliban has intensified its messaging, claiming that the American professor they are holding hostage is seriously ill and requires immediate treatment. And in new exclusive interviews with The Guardian, Afghan Taliban leaders declared that “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us” and the extra troops sent by President Trump “will not change the morale of our mujahideen.”