April 14th, 2017

Using “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan

[NOTE: Make sure you read the ADDENDUM below.]

I’ve never understood what the objection to one big non-nuclear bomb versus many small ones would be, if the target is well-chosen. In the case of the “mother of all bombs” recently detonated in Afghanistan, the target appears to have been quite well-chosen:

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) was dropped Thursday night on a network of fortified underground tunnels that ISIS had been using to stage attacks on government forces.

Who could object to that, except ISIS and ISIS sympathizers? Or The Society to Protect Tunnels?

Then there’s this:

The strike, in Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border, also killed 36 ISIS fighters, Afghan officials say…

The blast destroyed three underground tunnels as well as weapons and ammunition, but no civilians were hurt, Afghan and US officials have said…

Nicholson [US commander in Afghanistan] also confirmed the strike was carried out in coordination with Afghan officials, and said that the mission had conducted rigorous surveillance before, during and after the operation to prevent civilian deaths.

Hard to find any fault with that, although I suppose that someone somewhere will say that Nicholson and the officials are lying. The CNN article goes on to interview people who talk about hearing a loud noise and seeing the smoke, but so what? ISIS has already terrorized the region and caused massive civilian evacuation:

One man, who did not want to give his name for fear of ISIS retaliation, said there were no civilians left in the area the group controlled.

The region the MOAB struck butts up against the porous Pakistan border. The rocky landscape is dotted with caves and defensive tunnels, making it easy to hold and hard to attack, according to CNN International’s diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, who has previously reported from the Afghan mountains.

The point of the weapon when it was originally developed during the Iraq War (but never used until now) was to kill the enemy but also frighten them with the power of the blast. Who made the decision to use it in Afghanistan? My guess is that the generals recommended it to Trump, and he gave his approval because he trusts their judgment in the matter. It also is the start of the fulfillment of one of his campaign promises: to bomb the shit out of ISIS.

[ADDENDUM: Now, this is certainly interesting. Apparently the order to drop the bomb was entirely that of the general in command, and it was done under authority already in place during the Obama administration:

In January of 2016, President Obama approved new rules of engagement to allow U.S. commanders to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Afghanistan, because of its links to al-Qaeda.

Then in June, Obama also lifted restrictions on offensive strikes against the Taliban, which until then, the U.S. only attacked to protect Afghan forces.

Nicholson was acting under his authority as the commander of the U.S. counterterrorism mission, known as Freedom’s Sentinel, which is separate from the war between the Taliban and the Afghan government, which is under the umbrella of Operation Resolute Support.

“He had been looking at the target for months, and decided it was time to mix things up,” the official said, while admitting the U.S. military did not fully anticipate how the first use of the massive bomb would capture the imagination of the public, and be interpreted as a signal to other nations from Trump.

Well, if they didn’t “fully anticipate” it, I bet they suspected it.]

8 Responses to “Using “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Another reason why I am so happy that Trump won. Hillary never would have done this.

    Msybe now ISIS will get it into their collective heads that they can NEVER win. They are beaten. Give up.

  2. expat Says:

    I also read somewhere that there were IEDs planted all over the region, making it very difficult for the armies to move on ISIS. That MOAB explosion probably did far more damage to the tunnels’ structures than a bunch of pinpricks.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    Take a look at the addendum I added.

  4. Cornhead Says:


    Regarding the addendum, looks like Ben Rhodes type rhetoric in that Obama is taking ex post facto credit.

    It is a fact that military was very, very unhappy with the rules of engagement. The General well knew that the public would be ecstatic about this. Hillary would have taken credit if the bomb would have been used in 2016, if it worked.

    If there was a Dem in the WH using this MOAB bomb it would have required CIC approval.

    Generals are very politically and media savvy. This was all planned for DJT Administration.

    Mattis surely knew about the plan to use it.

  5. CV Says:

    Krauthammer on the MOAB as a message to North Korea and Iran:


  6. Cornhead Says:

    After the Wikileaks leak of the DNC emails and the hysterical anti-Trump coverage I am highly tuned into leaks, sources and biases. This Russia stuff is insane. I don’t trust a thing coming from the MSM on anything except the most basic things, e.g. We did use MOAB?

  7. Fred Says:


  8. Big Maq Says:

    @Cornhead – a lot of supposition without much fact to support it.

    It is an interesting question re: how “big” can a bomb be before admin level (if not POTUS) approval is needed.

    Evidently, this bomb (46 GJ) isn’t a concern (compare to the bomb on Hiroshima at 67 TJ, ~1500x the MOAB).

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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