The United States deployed the most destructive non-nuclear conventional bomb in its arsenal on a complex of caves in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan on Thursday but there was no word yet on the damage done.
The caves were being used by Islamic State operatives, according to the Pentagon, which didn’t assign a reason for the timing of dropping the “mother of all bombs” in its announcement nor the damaged caused by the 11-ton bomb.
“We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target US military advisers and Afghan forces in the area,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said about the bombing.
“The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously. And in order to defeat the group, we must deny them operational space, which we did,” said Spicer.
US national security adviser HR McMaster is headed for Afghanistan over the weekend and on to Pakistan and India, but no links were drawn between his impending visit and the bombing, other than stray suggestions that it showed the US was staying.
It wasn’t clear if it was a show of strength or of resolve to stay in the country and see the conflict to its bitter end in a reversal of the Obama administration’s stated goal of pulling out completely according to a timetable.
New Delhi would like the US to stay to prevent Afghanistan from slipping back into the kind of chaos that Pakistan used earlier to insinuate itself into the crisis through terrorist outfits such as the Haqqani network.
The US has around 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan in advisory role and President Donald Trump’s next move would be closely watched -- if he would add to the numbers, keep them where they were or roll them back, withdrawing completely.
As the Pentagon said in a brief statement this was the first time that the bomb, GBU-43, also called Massive Ordnance Air Blast (Moab) — was used in combat.
In the run-up to the polls, Trump had promised to go after the Islamic State, saying he would “bomb the s*** out of them”, a quote that became a popular T-shirt slogan but was the Thursday bombing about that?
Trump refused to own it when asked at a White House event just a few hours after. “Really another successful job,” he responded when asked by a reporter if he knew about it.
“We’re very very proud of our military, just like we’re proud of the folks in this room, we are so proud of our military it was another successful event.”