The Pentagon has dispatched A-10 ground attack planes to Afghanistan to bolster its effort to target Taliban opium drug factories, which provide the militant group with a substantial income.
A squadron of A-10C Warthog II planes deployed to the sprawling Kandahar Air Base in the southern portion of the country, military officials said. The planes have already begun flying anti-drug and other combat missions.
The addition of the A-10s in-theater comes as the Pentagon shifts assets away from the ISIS fight in Syria and Iraq, and as a realignment of air and ground assets takes place in Afghanistan as part of President Trump’s strategy of ramping up operations there.
Besides the A-10s, which are from the 303d Fighter Squadron, the U.S. has deployed MQ-9 Reaper drones to provide armed overwatch and surveillance, as well as HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters for personnel recovery and search and rescue.
Army Maj. Gen. James Hecker said the planes arrived on Jan. 19 and flew their first missions within 24 hours.
Air strikes against Taliban drug-making operations have already taken a toll on the group’s income, Pentagon officials have said. [source]