In a first use of expanded military authorities in Afghanistan, U.S. warplanes destroyed eight Taliban opium production facilities in Helmand Province Sunday, the top U.S. general there said Monday.
U.S. Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson said U.S. and Afghan forces in total took out 10 facilities on the first day of Operation Jagged Knife, a combined air operation that involved Afghan A-29s and U.S. B-52s and F-22s to take out a series of factories that Nicholson said were used as a revenue source for the Taliban.
The operation marked the first use of the F-22 to conduct airstrikes in Afghanistan. The highly advanced stealth fighter has capabilities that exceed what should have been necessary to destroy a Taliban target, raising questions as to why that platform was selected.
On Monday, Nicholson said the F-22 was selected in a last-minute decision, based on what aircraft was available with the capability to carry a small diameter precision bomb. Nicholson showed a clip of a target hit by an F-22 that dropped 250-pound small diameter bombs inside a compound. The bombs destroyed two of the structures inside the compound, leaving one, “to avoid collateral damage,” Nicholson said.
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