Taking part in Operation Jagged Knife, a campaign focused on harming Taliban drug production, an F-22 Raptor dropped a bomb on a drug lab. While the military has previously wanted to go after such targets, the use of fighter aircraft was limited to the defense of local troops until recently. After a significant rule change, the drug facilities became targets.
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As reported by Defense News, the selection of the F-22 for part of the operation was relatively last minute, but a target was identified in a location that required a precision strike to prevent civilian casualties and avoid unnecessary collateral damage. In the video, a target is shown being hit by 250-pound small diameter bombs. Two structures were destroyed while a third building in the compound was left standing “to avoid collateral damage,” according to US Forces Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson.
The strike was part of a joint operation that included US F-22s and B-52s as well as Afghan A-29s.
The Taliban uses heroin to fund many of their activities, including their war against the government of Afghanistan and the American troops supporting them.
Since President Donald Trump granted the US military the latitude to target drug operations in Afghanistan, they had the option of bringing in aircraft like the F-22 to strike facilities. During Operation Jagged Knife, eight Taliban opium production sites were destroyed by warplanes.
“These new authorities allow us to attack the enemy… to attack their financial networks, their revenue streams,” said Nicholson.
He did decline to provide details about the full scope of the strike as well as if additional targets have been identified as part of the operation.
Nicholson did say that there are approximately 400 to 500 drug production facilities in operation in the country at any given time. He also stated that US intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe the Taliban earns an estimated $200 million per year from opium in Afghanistan.
All military strikes against in the area are concentrated on drug production facilities and not on local farmers who grow the opium poppies used in the creation of heroin.