National Security

Keep Bombing the Taliban Dope

USAF using F-22 Raptors to attack Afghan drug labs? Good plan, wrong plane.

Harold Hutchison · Feb. 26, 2019

Recently, it was reported that the United States has stopped a program of bombing Taliban drug labs. This is both a good decision and a bad one — at the same time. That may seem like typing from both sides of the keyboard, but don’t think that for a moment.

The United States Air Force had been using some of its F-22 Raptors to attack the drug labs. Now, let’s get one thing straight: Bombing the Taliban is good. Making drug labs go away is also good. Making Taliban drug labs go away via bombs is, therefore, very good.

That said, the F-22 Raptor is not the plane for the job. We have previously discussed the short-handed Raptor force. When you have such a highly advanced plane in such low numbers, it needs to be saved for the most important missions — and bombing Taliban drug labs is overkill.

There is plenty of argument over whether we should just get out of Afghanistan. But consider this: The Taliban were instrumental to 9/11. Yes, it’s been more than 17 years, and we will soon see children graduate from high school who were not even alive on the day al-Qaida carried out its unprovoked and dastardly attack. But the message needs to be sent that perpetrating something like 9/11 is a fatal mistake, and while al-Qaida is a shadow of what it once was, there’s still that score with the Taliban.

After all, we didn’t stop fighting Japan after Tom Lanphier shot down Isoroku Yamamoto’s plane in 1943. That wasn’t even at the halfway mark of World War II in the Pacific. So, when the previous U.S. administration wanted quit the fight after killing Osama bin Laden, someone needed to remind him that the Taliban were accessories to 9/11.

With that out of the way, it’s time to point out that since there really is a need to be involved in Afghanistan and to keep taking out the Taliban, then it is obvious the bombing should continue until the Taliban get the hint. But bombing with which plane?

The answer is a force more equipped to deal with the Taliban. F-22s are overkill and needed elsewhere. But there was a plane that the Air Force has dismissed that could sting the Taliban very well — the Textron Scorpion. This relatively simple, multi-role plane could carry the types of weapons needed to blast Taliban drug labs to bits, like Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) or laser-guided bombs. Scorpions can even haul regular old dumb bombs.

If the Scorpion isn’t an option, then the Air Force could always decide to buy the FA-50, a version of the T-50 that recently lost out in the T-X competition. Maybe the United States should also look into re-opening production of the OV-10 Bronco, a far more capable plane than the two planes in the competition: The AT-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine.

This could be done as part of building up the United States Air Force. Yes, the USAF is talking about adding 74 more squadrons, but that’s not nearly enough. The fact is, a larger Air Force should also take into account the need to put bombs on al-Qaida, the Taliban, ISIS, al-Shabaab, and other terrorist groups. After all, just because Russia and China are major threats doesn’t mean we should ignore the radical Islamic terrorists.

When the Taliban decide to hand over any al-Qaida personnel they are harboring, then America can begin talks to stop the bombing. Until then, keep bombing their dope labs — and anything else we can find.

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