The Trump administration relaxed the rules of engagement last month, the United States military conducted airstrikes on opium processing facilities in Afghanistan last weekend using Afghan A-29s and U.S. B-52s and F-22s signaling its first major move.
“The operation marked the first use of the F-22 to conduct airstrikes in Afghanistan,” Defense News reported. “The highly advanced stealth fighter has capabilities that exceed what should have been necessary to destroy a Taliban target, raising questions as to why that platform was selected.”
General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told reporters Monday that the F-22 was selected at the last minute based on availability, as well as its capability to carry small diameter precision bombs that he said would help “avoid collateral damage.”
The general also reportedly showed a video clip of a target being completely demolished by several of the F-22’s 250-pound small diameter bombs.
WATCH: A U.S. airstrike hits a Taliban homemade explosives facility in Helmand province. The enormous secondary explosion is evidence of stockpiles of explosives the Taliban would have used against the Afghan people. #ForAFG @CentcomDari @CENTCOMPashtu @USAFCENT pic.twitter.com/px3HKztQuD
— USForces Afghanistan (@USFOR_A) November 24, 2017
Identified as Operation Jagged Knife, this operation’s purpose was “to target the source of Taliban income in much the same way the US military used airstrikes to suppress oil and other revenue origins for ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” according to CNN.
Furthermore, it was backed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who reportedly published a since-deleted tweet touting his administration’s desire “to tackle the criminal economy and narcotics trafficking with full force.”
It remains unclear why he deleted the tweet.
"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
The strikes followed reports that opium production in Afghanistan has increased by a notable 87 percent this year alone. It’s likewise suspected the Taliban obtains most of its funding through selling this opium.
As noted by Defense News, however, the goal has been to destroy the Taliban’s opium processing facilities versus the farms that grow opium poppy.
Nicholson reportedly estimated that anywhere from 400 to 500 opium processing facilities lie throughout Afghanistan, meaning this operation is far from over.
With the rules of engagement now relaxed, however, the military should have no problem finding and destroying these facilities.
The rule change specifically removed a requirement that U.S. military forces “be in contact with enemy forces” before opening fire, as reported last month by the Military Times.
“You see some of the results of releasing our military from, for example, a proximity requirement — how close was the enemy to the Afghan or the U.S.-advised special forces,” Defense Secretary James Mattis, who reportedly helped orchestrate the rule change, told the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time.
Yes, sir, I see very, very, very clearly *points to the videos above*.
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