US begins bombing Taliban opium plants in Afghanistan

The U.S. military has begun bombing opium production plants in Afghanistan as part of a new strategy targeting Taliban revenue, a top general said Monday. 

“Last night, we conducted strikes in northern Helmand [Province] to hit the Taliban where it hurts, in their narcotics financing,” said Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support in the country.

Using F-22 attack planes and B-52 bombers, the military says it dropped bombs on labs where the insurgents turn poppies into heroin, as well as “storage facilities where they keep their final product, where they stockpile their money and their command and control,” Nicholson said in a news conference with the Afghan army chief of staff in Kabul.

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Nicholson said the Taliban makes an estimated $200 million annually producing opium, with 400 to 500 drug labs in the country. The strikes took out 10 labs, Nicholson said.

The four-star general said the strikes were part of President Trump’s new policy for Afghanistan, which was rolled out in August and involves sending 3,000 additional troops to the country.

“Based on the new authorities I've received in the last 90 days with the U.S. policy announcement, we started developing targets immediately,” he said.

Thirteen drug-trafficking organizations control the opium trade in Afghanistan — seven of which are in Helmand.

“They fight so that they can keep profiting from narcotics trade and other criminal activities,” he said, referring to the Taliban.