Trump Just Dropped The Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Bomb

by Lani Seelinger
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Before the public had a chance to stop talking about the United States bombing Syria, Trump dropped a "mother of all bombs," or MOAB on an ISIS target in Afghanistan. Officially, it's called a Massive Ordnance Air Blast, but it's gained the moniker "mother of all bombs" because it's the largest non-nuclear bomb the U.S. military has ever used. It was originally developed in 2003 during the Iraq War, but this is the first time that it's been used in combat.

U.S. forces dropped the 21,000-plus-pound bomb in the Nangarhar Province in northeastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. According to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the target was a "system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely." The Pentagon released a statement on the event as well, stressing that operation had done everything possible to affect on ISIS fighters.

"The strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities," the statement said. ISIS-K refers to the branch of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan. The statement went on to say that the planning for this strike had "[taken] every precaution to avoid civilian casualties."

Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, explained why they chose to use the MOAB. "As ISIS-K's losses have mounted," Gen. Nicholson said, "they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense. This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K." The Pentagon also confirmed that the planning for this strike had already lasted months, although they did not say whether it had started during the Obama administration.

The size and strength of the MOAB is also meant to be a psychological weapon, designed to scare enemy forces into surrendering. When he was George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld confirmed that this was how they intended to use the MOAB against Saddam Hussein's troops. However, the bomb was never deployed during the Bush administration. It is still unclear whether Donald Trump himself authorized the use of the MOAB; the Independent reports that the highest ranking official known to have signed off on it was General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command. Whether or not Trump had a part in it, though, it's clear that the U.S. meant to send a geopolitical message to potential adversaries like North Korea by dropping this bomb in combat.