HERAT -- Afghan forces earlier this month destroyed a base and drug-storage facility belonging to the Taliban in Pusht Rod District, Farah Province, as part of a campaign to cut off the group's income.
The operation on August 17 also resulted in the capture of five members of the Taliban including Mullah Marjan, a local commander. The NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan provided air support, according to authorities.
"Security and defence forces launched operations on a Taliban base in Farah's Saaj village operated by Haji Marjan, one of the Taliban's famous drug dealers in Farah Province," Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for the Farah police, said in an interview. "This famous drug dealer was captured along with his four comrades."
Mullah Marjan "had accumulated more than 400kg of various narcotics in the safe haven, which were burned by the forces who conducted the operation," he said.
Taliban members processed drugs on Mullah Marjan's base and sold them to finance the group's terrorist activities, Mohib said.
"The Taliban produce, process, traffic and sell drugs as part of their efforts in Farah Province," he added. "The government has decided to first destroy the Taliban's income sources."
In air operations that took place on April 27, Afghan and NATO-led air forces annihilated 76 of the Taliban's drug-production and processing facilities in Bala Buluk District in Farah Province, burning tonnes of drugs.
Taliban drug dealers
The Taliban earn a fortune every year trafficking drugs and then use the money to fund their violent campaign, say authorities.
"Traffickers mean the Taliban, and the Taliban stand for traffickers," said Dadullah Qani, a member of the Farah provincial council. "Major Taliban commanders are the biggest drug traffickers."
Taliban commanders feed their fighters with money garnered from drug trafficking, he said.
"The Taliban traffic drugs to that side of the border [to Pakistan] and buy weapons, ammunition and explosives with the money and bring them to Afghanistan," Qani said, "The Taliban commanders are equipped with modern and advanced weapons thanks to income from drug trafficking."
The Taliban own a number of drug-processing facilities in Farah, especially in Bakwa District, he said, adding that air strikes have targeted these facilities several times.
"Drug traffickers and the Taliban are the same people, and both terrorists and corrupt individuals benefit from the abundant drug money," Herat Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said in an interview. "Illegal drug trafficking is one of the serious problems in Afghanistan, and I hope we can stop it."
Smugglers move drugs from the north of the country to southern provinces through Herat, and the Taliban have made a number of areas in Herat such as Gulran, Keshk Kuhna, Ghorian and Shindand districts insecure because of this activity, he added.
"The Taliban transport drugs to Bakwa District, Farah Province, and all other locations where their heroin production and processing facilities exist, and they traffic the drugs from those locations to the Bahramcha [area] in Helmand Province, where they distribute them."
Drugs for weapons, explosives
The money raised from selling illegal drugs enables the Taliban to purchase weapons and ammunition.
The Taliban earn more than $500 million (39 billion AFN) annually from the production, processing, trafficking and selling of drugs, Muhammad Hashem Ortaq, deputy minister of counter narcotics at the Interior Ministry, told reporters on June 30.
"Security forces are trying to prevent the Taliban" from making money off drug trafficking, he said at an event marking the burning of 31 tonnes of drugs in Herat Province. "Our brave forces destroyed 53 drug-production and processing facilities in Bakwa District of Farah in the ground and air operations."
"The Taliban force farmers in insecure areas to grow narcotics [poppy]," Jawad Ameed, a civil society activist in Herat Province, said in an interview. "They support the production of narcotics and destabilise the areas to pave the way for drug cultivation and trafficking.
"If the Taliban didn't have access to the abundant drug money, they wouldn't be able to continue their activities," he added.