On April 13th 2017, 7:32 local time, the US dropped a 21,600 pound bomb on the eastern Afghan Nangarhar province. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), or nicknamed “mother of all bombs”, is the most potent non-nuclear bomb to ever be used in combat by the US military. It targeted, according to the White House press secretary Sean Spicer, a “system of tunnels and cave that ISIS fighters use to move around freely.”
The use of the bomb was deployed by General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, after he was authorized to do so by General Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command. President Trump did praise the bombing, calling it “another very, very successful mission.” However, he did not comment on whether or not he was directly involved and only said that he has given military commanders “total authorization and that’s what they’re doing.” It shows that the denotation could have occurred, and most likely did, without a direct command from the President.
MOAB was developed for the Iraq war. It is capable of blasting an area of one mile radius. Bill Roggio, from the Foundation for Defence of Democracies think tank, describes that the bomb “basically [sucks] out all the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” and that it is “a way to get into areas where conventional bombs can’t reach.” According to the Afghan defense ministry, the weapon killed 36 ISIS militants and did not affect civilians.
Following the military raid in Yemen in January and the air strike in Syria last week, this is the third major military action Trump has taken since coming to office three months ago in January 2017. One of the primary reasons for the MOAB deployment is to address the escalating situation against Al Qaeda and ISIS in the region. Just last week, a US special forces soldier was killed in battle in the province. Furthermore, the MOAB detonation can serve as a warning that the US is willing to engage in military action if provoked. It occurred a week after airstrikes against Syria and in the midst of another potential nuclear test from North Korea. The scale of the bomb and the reason behind the bombing carries an underlying threat. Wolf Blitzer said on CNN that the events “suggest that we will be engaging in wars in three different countries simultaneously.”
President Trump has taken drastic military actions, which contrast his isolationist policies stated during his presidential campaign. This unpredictability makes it even more difficult to understand what America may support in the future. Nevertheless, based on the current situation, Trump is willing to advocate for military actions over less violent diplomatic solutions.
Spicer says that “US forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike.” Even with the precautions, it is undeniable that the civilian casualties have increased significantly due to the recent US military actions. One can only hope that President Trump will suddenly have a change of opinion and be willing to engage in more peaceful resolutions.