A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar bombed multiple Taliban narcotics production and storage facilities in Afghanistan during a mission on May 18, 2018.
The 34th EBS BONEs deployed their largest amount of weapons on narcotics facilities since the squadron’s reintroduction in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command’s (AFCENT) area of responsibility in April.
This mission was part of realigning airpower from Operation Inherent Resolve, and elsewhere, to support increased activity in Afghanistan and bolster Afghan National Defense and Security Forces capabilities.
“Increased airpower supports a deliberate air campaign designed to degrade the Taliban’s primary means of funding its operations — narcotics production,” said Capt. Mark Olme, a 34th EBS pilot. “These strikes will mitigate the Taliban’s ability to fund insurgent operations that kill innocent Afghan civilians and strengthen the ANDSF’s ability to fight and win on the ground.”
The ANDSF are now planning and calling their own strikes and successfully demonstrating the ability to integrate operations that enable battlefield successes. Together with U.S. airpower and advisors, they will continue to develop the critical war-fighting capabilities needed to help them in their task of defeating the Taliban and other threats.
Since November, more than 75 strikes against narcotics processing and storage facilities and stockpiles have resulted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars for the Taliban. According to Frank Mercurio, 34th EBS chief of weapons and tactics, the intent is to go after the root of the problem.
“We’re trying to target their means of funding,” Mercurio said. “So if we take out their narcotics factories, storage and production — we’re basically rooting the Taliban from any money or funding they might have to then go and use against innocent Afghan civilians.”
According to Olme, there are several parties that work together to make missions like this possible.
“We work together with the joint terminal attack controller, command and control network, tasking authorities and usually an air-refueling tanker,” Olme said. “There are five or six entities all working in conjunction during missions like this.”
The reputable B-1 — with its supersonic speed, long loiter time and massive payload — returned to the U. S. Central Command AOR in April to combat Taliban and other terrorist groups after two years of supporting the U. S. Pacific Command’s AOR.
“We are not in the Pacific anymore,” Olme said. “We’re back and we’re making our presence known with the Taliban.”
Established in 2009, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan is a U.S.-led mission that directs and enables U.S. military operations in support of Resolute Support, NATO’s train, advise and assist mission. Its purpose is to sustain campaign momentum in Afghanistan. It is also tasked with executing responsibilities and oversight for manpower, material and logistics, basing and operational movement in the country, supporting a responsible economic transition that encourages a resilient Afghan economy.