The United States dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan on Thursday, a Pentagon spokesman has said. Nicknamed the "mother of all bombs," the GBU-43/B or the Massive Ordnance Air Blast dropped in Afghanistan on Thursday reportedly contains 11 tons of explosives. It was the first time the bomb had ever been used in combat.
The MOAB was dropped via an Air Force Special Operations Command aircraft at 7:32 p.m. local time on an Islamic State tunnel complex in Nangarhar province's Achin district, the Associated Press reported a statement from the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said. The military said it "took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike," which was "designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction."
Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, said the Islamic State was using bunkers and tunnel complexes like the one targeted by Thursday's strike to bolster their defenses. According to Gen. Nicholson, the destruction of such key Islamic State defenses was considered a necessity for the U.S. to maintain "the momentum" of its offensive.
"As ISIS-K's losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense," NBC News reported Gen. Nicholson, said in a statement. "This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K." ISIS-K is an abbreviation of the term ISIS-Khorasan, which refers to the branch of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As of Thursday afternoon it was unclear whether President Donald Trump had given the order to drop the GBU-43/B directly. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to state whether the president had approved the bomb's use during Thursday's daily press briefing. "The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously, and in order to defeat the group, we must deny then operational space, which we did," Spicer said. He described the GBU-43/B, which was developed for use in Iraq around 2003, as "a large, powerful, and accurately delivered weapon." According to political blog the Hill, Gen. Nicholson would not have needed Trump's approval before authorizing Thursday's strike.
Shortly after testing the GBU-43/B in 2003, military officials told CNN the bomb's huge blast radius made it a weapon conceived for "psychological operations."
According to CNN, the military is still assessing the damage Thursday's strike caused.