US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) hit Taliban-run “narcotics production facilities” in an airstrike in the southern province of Helmand, where the Taliban are entrenched after years of fighting.
F/A-18 Super Hornets, flown from a US Navy aircraft carrier, targeted and destroyed the Taliban drug labs on Dec. 7, USFOR-A announced on it’s Facebook page. Video of the operation showed two bombs hitting a walled compound in a village.
USFOR-A said that the operation “contributed to the destruction of nearly $4 million in direct Taliban revenues, and is part of an effort to cut off the Taliban’s economic lifelines and degrade their ability to continue operations.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Coalition attacks Taliban command center and drug labs.]
Yesterday’s strike is part of a “campaign to destroy Taliban funding networks,” Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan announced on Nov. 20. In mid-November, the US military and Afghan Air Force hit a Taliban command and control center and seven “drug labs” in what the Coalition described as “previously untargeted safe havens in south and southwest” Afghanistan.
General John Nicholoson, the commander of USFOR-A and Resolute Support, indicated on Nov. 20 that the strikes, which are the result of the US government’s recalibration of its Afghanistan and South Asia policy, “are just the beginning.”
Yesterday’s strikes are the latest in an increased air campaign that has hit both the Taliban and al Qaeda, which maintains a strong presence in Afghanistan. On Dec. 1, The US killed Mullah Shah Wali, the head of the Taliban’s Red Unit or its special forces in Helmand province. Wali was also the Taliban’s deputy shadow governor for Helmand.
On Dec. 4, the US killed Omar Khetab, a deputy leader in al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, in one of several strikes against the group in Ghazni, Pakita, and Zabul province. Resolute Support reported that “multiple other al Qaeda operatives” were killed during the operation. Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security claimed that 81 al Qaeda operatives, including Khetab, were killed and 27 more were captured.
The Taliban has not denied reports of Wali’s death, but did note the operation that targeted and killed Khetab and other al Qaeda operatives. In a statement denying Afghan military gains in Logar, the Taliban claimed the “enemy … has also spread rumors regarding their gains in Zabul, Ghazni and Paktia province which [sic] false and no more than sheer propaganda.”