WASHINGTON: The United States has launched a new air campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, dropping a record number of precision guided bombs on their targets over the past 24 hours, the US military announced on Tuesday.
The announcement said that the campaign has been expanded to northern Afghanistan too, targeting Taliban installations near the border with China and Tajikistan. Besides destroying insurgent hideouts, the new campaign also aims at eliminating Taliban training facilities and support networks, the US military added.
During these strikes, a US Air Force B-52 strategic bomber dropped 24 precision guided weapons on Taliban fighting positions, setting a record of the most guided weapons ever released from the aircraft. US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft also participated in these day and nighttime missions.
The US military pointed out that the first phase of this campaign began in November, two months after President Donald Trump announced his new Afghan strategy, which seeks to defeat the Taliban to force them to join the US-backed setup in Kabul.
In the first phase, the campaign focused on Taliban-linked narcotics producing labs in the largest southern province of Helmand with a mission to cut the insurgents’ main source of revenue.
The US military said Tuesday’s precision-guided bombing was part of a 96-hour air campaign that struck training facilities and also sources of revenue like narcotics. The strikes aimed at stolen Afghan National Army vehicles as well that “being converted to vehicle-borne” improvised explosive devices, the statement added.
Some Taliban training facilities destroyed in the bombing were in Badakhshan province, which borders both China and Tajikistan. The US military said that by eliminating these facilities, they also prevented Taliban-backed militant groups like the East Turkistan Islamic Movement from launching terrorist attacks inside those countries.
The precision-guided bombs were dropped on Taliban fighting positions, setting a record of the most guided munitions ever dropped from a B-52.
The aircraft has played a leading role in Air Force operations for decades, and was recently reconfigured with a conventional rotary launcher to increase its reach and lethality, the US military added.
“Continued US strikes disrupt Taliban support networks in Helmand province, as well as destroy their sources of revenue such as illegal narcotics,” the military added. Some safe havens in Helmand have also been destroyed.
The military said that US strikes and raids by Afghan security forces have resulted in the removal of more than $30 million of Taliban revenue since the campaign began in November, 2017.
“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” said General John Nicholson, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group bent on bringing harm and destruction to this country.”
The US military also said that over the past year, US precision strikes and the efforts of the Afghan Air Force and Afghan Special Security Forces have prevented Taliban fighters from capturing Kunduz City.
According to this statement, the Taliban continue to fail in their attempts to recapture lost territory in other areas. In 2017, the Taliban did not capture a single provincial capital, despite repeated boasts and attempts. Faced with failure on the battlefield, they have turned to targeting civilians as the only tactic they have left.
“The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield, therefore they inflict harm and suffering on innocent civilians,” said Gen. Nicholson. “All they can do is kill innocent people and destroy what other people have built.”
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2018