U.S. airstrikes target drug processing factories in Afghanistan

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U.S. forces have for the first time bombed several drug processing factories in Afghanistan, the top U.S. commander and head of NATO forces in the country said on Monday.

Gen. John Nicholson said that the strikes were aimed at the financial resources of the Taliban, adding that such attacks would continue.

Nicholson while addressing a news conference, said that the joint operation with Afghan forces was conducted on Sunday in the embattled southern province of Helmand.

Helmand is not only the centre of drug production in Afghanistan, producing 80 to 90 per cent of the world’s opium, but also the Taliban’s largest stronghold in the country.

The Afghan presidential palace said in a statement that eight narcotics processing factories of the Taliban were destroyed in Helmand.

However, Qari Jusuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, rejected the claims.

“There is no drug production factory in the area, the U.S. and Afghan government just want to hide that they bombed civilians,’’ he wrote on Twitter.

According to the UN Security Council, the estimated 400 million dollars earned by the Taliban from the drug trade in 2016 accounted for about half of the insurgents’ income.

The UN reported recently that Afghanistan cultivated the largest poppy crop in its history and potentially produced 9,000 tons of opium this year, as large swathes of land fell to the Taliban.

According to the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the record harvest can be used to produce 87 per cent more opium than in 2016.

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