Following the successes in the fight against ISIS, the US military is applying the same tactics against an old enemy.
The Washington Examiner reports that, in the fight against ISIS, President Trump ordered the US military to attack their finances by conducting airstrikes on ISIS-held oil refineries. Now the military is using airstrikes to target the Taliban’s drug labs, cutting off their revenue streams.
Under former-President Barack Obama, the US military was barred from using airstrikes offensively against the Taliban. Such attacks could only be used defensively, and could only strike close to forces on the ground.
President Donald Trump, however, has permitted the US military to utilize airstrikes to go after the financial lifeblood of its enemies. The Taliban’s primary revenue stream is $200 million a year in opium sales, so the US military is going after their drug labs.
US Forces Afghanistan Commander Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson says this authority granted by President Trump is making a huge difference in the Middle East. “These new authorities give me the ability to go after the enemy in ways that I couldn’t before … to use airpower in the most effective way, going forward. We’re hitting the Taliban where it hurts, which is their finances,” he said.
Previously, the war was fought seasonally. Ground troops would engage in battle during the spring and summer, known as “fighting season,” then break for the winter when such warfare is impractical. With airstrikes, the US can continue to hammer away at the enemy year round.
Gen. Nicholson believes the best way to combat the Taliban is a three-pronged effort: 1) Supporting Afghan forces fighting the Taliban with airstrikes similar to how ISIS was fought, 2) Cutting off revenue streams that will drain their war chests, and 3) Using upcoming local elections to enact social change which should hinder recruitment and outside support for the Taliban.
Cutting off the Taliban’s ability to participate in the drug trade would be devastating to their bottom line. Roughly 85 percent of the world’s heroin is tied to the Taliban. They have 400-500 drug labs pumping out more drugs every year as part of a $60 billion industry from which they reap $200 million in profits.
This cash flow gives the Taliban the resources it needs to recruit followers, obtain arms and ammunition, supply its troops, and further its terroristic campaign, all while spreading harmful drugs into neighboring countries.
As of Sunday, at least 10 of these labs have been destroyed, one of which contained 50 barrels of opium worth millions of dollars according to US intelligence reports.
Gen. Nicholson believes attacking their drug labs will limit the Taliban enough that the Afgan government will go from controlling 66 percent of the population to 80 percent. “These new authorities give me the ability to go after the enemy in ways that I couldn’t before … to use airpower in the most effective way, going forward. We’re hitting the Taliban where it hurts, which is their finances.”
President Trump just ordered airstrikes on Taliban drug labs which funds their terrorism. Using these tactics, do you think ISIS can be defeated under President Trump’s leadership?
Coming from the business world, President Trump understands that an organization like the Taliban live and die by their bottom line. With a surplus of funds, they can expand their operations, better arm themselves and spread their power and influence. But if they are suffering financial losses every year, they are forced to operate on less, which limits their abilities and halts expansion efforts.
No doubt the Taliban is hoping to seize more control and influence in the vacuum left by ISIS’ collapse. Hopefully, with the US military and Afghan forces coordinating to take out their drug labs, they will lack the resources to take advantage of the void, allowing local government powers to step in.