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Taliban Drug Labs

US Ends Campaign to Destroy Taliban Drug Labs

KABUL – The US military has ended a controversial bombing campaign that targeted Taliban drug labs across Afghanistan, without appearing to significantly disrupt the group’s ability to generate revenue from the illegal narcotics trade.
According to the Defense Department Inspector General report, the operation was officially terminated during the last quarter of 2018.
The campaign, known as Operation Iron Tempest, was launched two years before to hurt the Taliban financially. It was part of the US President’s broader strategy for Afghanistan, which relaxed rules of engagement in a bid to push the insurgents to the negotiating table.
A year of airstrikes and raids led to “insurgent confusion, concern, and changes to their tactics, techniques and procedures,” the IG report said, citing the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force — Afghanistan. But it didn’t estimate how much revenue Taliban lost — the main aim of the campaign.
According to a report last month by the SIGAR, the strikes on narcotics facilities denied the Taliban more than $42 million. In 2017, the U.S. military said the Narcotics helped the group generate $200 million a year.
SIGAR has repeatedly raised concerns about DOD’s methodology for calculating the amount of money denied to the Taliban because of the airstrikes, a concern echoed by independent experts.
Over 200 Air raids were carried out throughout Operation Iron Tempest, but just two were conducted in the last quarter of 2018, both in southern Helmand province, the IG report said.
Despite the yearlong campaign, narcotics production in Afghanistan has remained at a “very high level,” according to the United Nations, which documented over 1,000 square miles of net opium cultivation last year.
Afghanistan remains the world’s top producer of illicit opium, used to make heroin, despite numerous U.S.-led initiatives costing more than $8 billion to combat drugs since the war began in 2001.
The US military in Afghanistan has stipulated that the purpose of Operation Iron Tempest was to cut off Taliban revenue, not to fight the drug trade itself.
(Sahar News)

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