The U.S. military was not allowed to strike Taliban drug factories until President Donald Trump authorized a new strategy in Afghanistan, top U.S. General John Nicholson revealed Tuesday.
Previous rules of engagement were established under the Obama administration, which restricted U.S. military airstrikes to defense operations in support of the Afghan National Security Forces. Trump declared a new course of U.S. action in Afghanistan during an Aug. 21 address pledging to keep the military in the country until conditions on the ground merited withdrawal with an aim to driving the Taliban to the negotiating table.
Nicholson noted that the Taliban is now more reliant on profits from the opium and heroin production trade than ever before describing it as a “criminal or narco-insurgency.” U.S. operations against these opium factories are meant to cut off funding streams to the militant group which has proven resilient on the battlefield.
The general sought to characterize the development of the Taliban into a narco-insurgency as a positive development noting that the group was bickering about money. “They are making more money than they need to operate,” Nicholson explained, launching into a story of a shadow Taliban governor who refused to pay his superiors.
Despite 16 years of war the Taliban continue to control or contest nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population, by the general’s own figures. These numbers along with territory controlled are not expected to change within the next year as the U.S. military focuses on building the Afghan military’s capacity before a major offensive.
The general previously revealed that U.S. and Afghan forces begun heavily bombing opium factories in southern Helmand province last week.
“Last night, we conducted strikes into Northern Helmand to hit the Taliban where it hurts: their narcotics financing.” -Gen. Nicholson, USFOR-A #AFGStrong https://t.co/RLjDdSYTlI @CENTCOM @USAFCENT @DeptofDefense @TOLOnews @pajhwok @HM_Kakar @1TVNewsAF @ArianaNews_ @KhalilNoori pic.twitter.com/152rTR236z
— USForces Afghanistan (@USFOR_A) November 20, 2017
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