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U.S. bombs Afghan opium plants

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The U.S. has opened a new front in America’s longest war, bombing opium production plants in Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan in a bid to shut off revenue, commanders said Monday, reported NBC News (US).

"We hit the labs where they turn poppy into heroin,” Gen. John Nicholson told reporters in Kabul. "We hit their storage facilities where they keep their final product, where they stockpile their money and their command and control."

Pentagon officials estimate that opium cultivation is worth more than $200 million every year for the Taliban, which controls roughly 40 percent of the country.

The bombing of the opium processing plants is the latest and most extensive phase of President Donald Trump’s new South Asia strategy, along with adding approximately 3,000 troops.

“Based on the new authorities I've received in the last 90 days with the U.S. policy announcement, we started developing targets immediately,” Nicholson said.

Flying B-52s and F-22 stealth fighters, U.S. forces dropped precision bombs on several different locations.

Nicholson said the operation took weeks of preparation, and precautions were taken to limit civilian casualties.

As the opioid crisis continues to devastate American communities, Afghanistan is also struggling with its own uptick in addiction.

More than 10 percent of Afghan children in rural areas have tested positive for opium and 31 percent of all Afghan households were affected by drug abuse in 2015 alone.

This year’s opium crop was the largest since the war began and 87 percent bigger than in 2016, according to the U.N. Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC).

Nicholson made clear that the new strategy would not be targeting farmers in rural communities who rely on poppy production for their livelihoods.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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