US abandons another failed Obama war strategy and attacks Taliban Drug dens
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says he is using new authority given him by President Trump to launch a bombing campaign against Taliban drug production facilities to cut off the revenue streams that have been funding the insurgency against Afghan government forces.The Taliban failed in most of their current objectives in the last few months and US forces are no longer restricted to defensive operations.
"In striking northern Helmand and the drug enterprises there, we're hitting the Taliban where it hurts, which is their finances,” said Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support. “This is the first significant use of the new authorities.”
Until Trump unshackled U.S. commanders, airpower could be used only to protect U.S., NATO and Afghan forces, and not for offensive strikes.
“These new authorities allow me to go after the enemy in ways I couldn’t before,” said Nicholson, who says it took months to track Taliban revenue streams and develop targets that would not result in civilian casualties.
The U.S. estimates the Taliban have 400 to 500 drug labs in the country, which generates $200 million in revenue. “We took 10 of those off the battlefield last night,” said Nicholson, adding that the attacks would continue in the coming days.
"Our message to the enemy is that you cannot win the war. It's time to lay down your arms and enter into a reconciliation process," Nicholson said. "If they don't, they're going to be consigned to irrelevance, as the Afghans expand their control of the country, or death. And so these are the choices they face."
Yesterday, strikes involved U.S. B-52 bombers dropping precision 500-pound bombs, and F-22 Raptor fighters dropping 250-pound munitions, as well as two strikes carried out by A-29s from Afghanistan's fledgling air force.
...Taking the shackles off the US forces will also give the Afghans an opportunity to not only resist the Taliban but also take away their sanctuaries and funding operations.
"We are seeing signs of friction and disagreement within the Taliban leadership ranks. They know they cannot win -- they can't win in the face of this growing capability" of the Afghan security forces, he added. The Taliban control "roughly" the same amount of territory they did a year ago.
The Taliban have taken "a step back in terms of enemy tactics to a guerrilla warfare type of strategy, from one where they attempt to seize and hold terrain."
"Now, the Taliban are interested, though, in making money, and to some extent it's fair to say that this movement has evolved into a narcoinsurgency, so that the profits from narcotics now exceed their operating expenses, and we find that the leadership of the Taliban fight over the money, and it's often divided along tribal lines," Nicholson continued. "They make their money in a couple of ways. One is the narcotics trafficking; second, illegal mining; kidnapping for hire; murder; etc. So, largely, they've evolved into a criminal organization and truly fit the definition of a narcoinsurgency."