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Taliban’s funding sources to be choked: Gen. Nicholson

Taliban’s funding sources to be choked: Gen. Nicholson

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Apr 29, 2018 - 12:23

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): Talibaninfo-icon’s funding sources, no matter where they are, will be choked, the top US and NATOinfo-icon commander in Afghanistaninfo-icon says.

In an exclusive session with Afghan journalists, Gen. John Nicholson called the illicit drug commerce the main revenue source for the insurgent movement.

Speaking on the sidelines of NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, he accused the Taliban of kidnapping for ransom and illegal digging of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

“Our first priority was to eradicate Taliban’s income from producing and smuggling narcotics. We have already inflicted a loss on them of $40 million,” the general explained.

Nicholson said a string of air raids had been conducted on Taliban’s drug laboratories and other facilities in Helmand, Nimroz and Farah provinces.

The 215th Military Corps of the Afghan National Army in Helmand had also conducted a lot of operations to deny the militants revenue from the drug business, he acknowledged.

Asked if the US-led troops would also crack down on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, he replied their job was confined to destroying drug labs, markets and areas of the unlawful business.

In response to a query from Pajhwok Afghan News, he sounded optimistic of improvement in Kabul-Islamabad relations in the wake of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s recent visit to Afghanistan.

Nicholson hope Pakistaninfo-icon would honour the pledges Abbasi had held out to his interlocutors in Kabul. Such a move would be in the interest of both nations, he believed.

“All of us want Pakistan to cooperate on the Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he remarked, saying strong pressure was being mounted on Islamabad.

In this regard, the general referred to the Trump administration’s decision on halting civilian and military assistance to Islamabad and a call from NATO foreign ministers that Pakistan play a proactive role in stabilising Afghanistan. 

“We are hopeful that dialogue, cooperation and pressures would push the Taliban to the negotiating table and stop Pakistan aiding the militant movement,” he continued.

The Resolute Support commander admitted the Taliban had not yet formally responded to the dialogue offer from President Ashraf Ghani, but behind-the-scene negotiations were ongoing.

He pointed out an uptick in airstrikes on insurgent positions after President Donald Trump’s announcement of a new Afghan strategy in August last year.

As a consequence of stepped-up raids, the commander claimed, the guerrillas had been weakened considerably. As a last resort, the fighters were staging group attacks on security checkpoints and some cities, he said.

About the launch of Taliban’s spring offensive, he said though the rebels had embarked on operations, yet the Afghans desired peace and the militants should meet people’s aspirations.

At the same time, he added, Afghan security forces had also become stronger and were conducting counter-insurgency offensive with stout support from their NATO partners.

The Resolute Support personnel were cooperating with the Afghan forces on providing security for the voter registration process ahead of the August parliamentary elections, he continued.

With regard to Daesh operations in northern Afghanistan, Nicholson confirmed the terrorist group’s presence in Jawzjan province. A top Islamic State leader, Qari Hikmatullah, was recently killed there.

Former Taliban members have joined Daesh in the north, according to Nicholson, who said Afghan security forces were carrying out search operations in Badakhshan, Kunduz, Jawzjan and Faryab. 

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