East County News Service
April 15, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. on Thursday dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed to destroy caves used by ISIS fighters in the Achin area of Afghanistan, the Pentagon confirms. Some Afghan officials estimate that as many as 94 ISIS fighters and four commanders may have been killed, with no civilian deaths reported, according to NBC news.
The weapon is officially called a Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, that unofficially it’s been dubbed the “mother of all bombs.” It created a mushroom-like cloud visible 20 miles away, NBC reports.
“What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire,” Bill Roggio from Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Air Force Times. He said the bomb provides a means of getting into areas that conventional bombs can’t reach.
A smart bomb guided by GPS, the MOAB weighs 21,000 pounds and delivers an 18,700-pound warhead; the bomb is 30 feet long with a diameter of 40.5 inches, capable of blasting a hole with a radius of 150 meters, according to the Pentagon website.
The MOAB was developed in 2003 with a video of a test released to pressure Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in hopes he would stop fighting coalition forces, but the bomb was never used during that war. It arrived in Afghanistan in January and was deployed on order of General John Nicholson, who did not request nor require approval of President Donald Trump, NBC reports.
Afghan officials at first said 36 ISIS fighters died in the blast, but on Saturday AFP reports that Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari says at least 92 fighters from Daesh, another name for ISIS or the Islamic State, were killed in the bombing. He said there were no military or civilian casualties.
However, an elderly man living near the bombed site has said the loud noise from the bomb has caused his infant granddaughter to experience hearing loss, AFP reports.
A spokesman for Nangarhar province, Attaulah Khogyani, estimated the death toll at 90. Officials indicate the dead include the brother of the late Islamic State leader Hafiz Saeed, who was killed in a US air strike last year.
Afghan’s current president Ashraf Ghani expressed support for the bombing that was designed to support efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces and US forces trying to clear land mines in the area that posed dangers to troops.
But former Afghan President Hamid Karzai tweeted condemnation of the strike, contending that his country is being used as a “testing ground.”
President Trump called the mission “very, very successful.”
The Air Force has said that the bomb cost approximately $170,000 and was produced by the Air Force itself, so there was no procurement cost from an outside contractor, Business Insider reports.
Ostensibly the bomb was dropped to help stop ISIS from gaining strength in a region where the U.S. has long been waging war against Taliban forces, and most Afghan people fear ISIS even more than the Taliban, according to former U.S. Army intelligence officer Andrew Peek, in an analysis published in the New York Daily News.
Peek suggests the real “target” however, may have been North Korea – specifically, sending a warning to North Korea’s dictator with a show of military firepower, Peek suggests. Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has recently conducted tests of nuclear weapons, leading Peek to speculate that a “showdown” between the U.S. and North Korea may be looming.
Since taking office, Trump has said he would respond militarily if North Korea launches further nuclear tests. He announcement deployment of an “armada” including the San Diego based Carl Vinson, a nuclear-armed ship, to the waters off North Korea.
As the rhetoric intensifies, even China has reportedly urged Kim Jong-un to exercise restraint, the United Kingdom’s Independent newspaper reports.