06:14 GMT +322 July 2018
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    A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, originally designed to counter Soviet armor on the European battlefield during the Cold War.

    War on Drugs: US A-10 Destroys Taliban Narcotics Labs (VIDEO)

    © AFP 2018 / TED ALJIBE
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    The US military has released new footage of the anti-narcotics aspect of its battle against the Taliban: two new videos show A-10 aircraft bombing drug facilities to pieces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

    Since US President Donald Trump authorized a greater use of airpower in the fight against the Taliban last November, the US estimates it has eliminated nearly $80 million of drug money and denied the Taliban more than $16 million in direct revenue, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction reported in late January.

    B-52 Stratofortresses and F-22 Raptors have joined the bombing campaign since Trump's authorization of greater force. The 17-year-conflict is quietly escalating as a result of the campaign: the Pentagon estates that from November to December 13, 2017, US forces destroyed 25 drug labs.

    Since the US war campaign in Afghanistan kicked off, there has been a substantial increase in the number of hectares of Afghan land used to grow opium, a key ingredient in opioids and the agricultural parent of street heroin. Politifact reports that there were approximately 200,000 hectares of land being used for opium production in 2016 versus about 70,000 hectares being used for the same purpose in 2002. During this time, the US has spent at least $8.5 billion for the expressed purpose of ridding Afghanistan of narcotics, SIGAR reported in 2017.

    What's more, there are about 400,000 people working on these opium farms, more than the number serving in the Afghan National Security Forces, the fact-checking site added.

    However, there's no guarantee bombing the Taliban's drug facilities will be an effective strategy in bringing peace to Afghanistan. According to a 2017 SIGAR report, "October and November were two of the deadliest months for civilians," and the danger of more such casualties from the sustained air campaign "could erode support for the Afghan government and potentially increase support for the insurgency."

    There's also evidence that demolishing narcotics centers isn't effective in suppressing the drug running operation, either, since Afghans have told reporters on the ground it takes about three or four days to build a new lab and that it is an inexpensive project.

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    Tags:
    SIGAR, A-10, US Air Force, Taliban, Afghanistan
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