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US, Afghan aircraft target Taliban's poppy facilities

US, Afghan aircraft target Taliban's poppy facilities

The United States has launched its first counter-narcotics military offensive in partnership with local allies in Afghanistan to try to deprive the resurgent Taliban of its largest source of funding.

Speaking at a news conference, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, Chief of General Staff for the Afghanistan security forces, said the recent raids in Helmand have destroyed poppy processing factories that were contributing 60 percent of the militants' income.

"Our combined operations over the last 24 hours are demonstration of our will to defeat terrorists and those who support them especially in the narcotics networks", Gen. Nicholson said. "We hit their storage facilities where they keep their final product, where they stockpile their money and their command and control", Nicholson said.

"We hit the labs where they turn poppy into heroin".

In a recent report, the UN Office on Drug and Crime said production and cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan reached record highs in 2017 with 9,000 metric tons of opium produced in 2017 in Afghanistan, an increase of 87 percent from 2016.

This footage shows attacks in Musa Qala, Kajaki, and Sangin districts of Helmand province.

In Afghanistan, the opium economy nearly doubled in 2016, to about $3 billion, and amounted to around 16 percent of the country's gross domestic product, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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Nicholson said he has been given new authorities under the Trump administration's South Asia policy that allowed him to declare war on Afghan drugs and go after the enemy and all of their support, as well as revenue infrastructure across the country.

There are signs of friction and disagreements within the Taliban which has failed to meet any of their military objectives this year in Afghanistan, a top U.S. commander in the war-torn country today said.

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. These strikes are the first use of those authorities that allow US forces to actively pursue terrorist elements and attack them offensively in collaboration with Afghan forces. USA and Afghan military commanders have long alleged neighboring Pakistan is sheltering the insurgents and not taking action against them despite public pledges.

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

B-52 bombers, F-22 Raptor fighters, unmanned aircraft, Marine Corps rocket fire and Afghan A-29 aircraft struck eight narcotics processing sites in Helmand province, the US military and Afghanistan government announced in Kabul.

"Their fight on terror is the most important fight in the world, and it's a fight on behalf of us, as well as them", Nicholson said.


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