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US, Afghan Forces Target Taliban Drug Labs as Part of New Strategy

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U.S. and Afghan forces have launched joint attacks on Taliban opium factories to try to curb the insurgent group's economic lifeline, officials from both countries said Monday.

Gen. John Nicholson said the raids involving an F-22 bomber were carried out the day before in the southern Helmand province. He said the insurgents generate an estimated $200 million a year from poppy cultivation and opium production.

"Last night we conducted strikes in northern Helmand to hit the Taliban where it hurts, in their narcotics financing," Nicholson said, flanked by Afghan Army Lieutenant General Mohammad Sharif Yaftali.

Nicholson added that he has been ordered to target drug facilities under a new strategy announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in August.

Opium production in Afghanistan reached record highs this year, up 87 percent on last year, the United Nations said last week.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said output of opium made from poppy seeds in Afghanistan, the world's main source of heroin, stands at around 9,000 metric tons this year.

UNODC has warned in the past that Kabul's weakening grip on security was contributing to a collapse in eradication efforts.

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