The U.S. military on Thursday dropped a massive 21,600-pound bomb in Afghanistan targeting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters in a series of cave complexes.
At 7:32 p.m., a U.S. MC-130 aircraft dropped the bomb – the U.S.’s largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat – in Achin district in the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
It was the first time the bomb, known as the GBU-43, or “Massive Ordnance Air Blast,” was used in combat. It has a yield of 11 tons of TNT, and is nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs.”
The bomb targeted ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorasan, “as part of ongoing efforts” to defeat the group in 2017, according to a statement from U.S. Forces – Afghanistan.
“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.
The U.S. “took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike,” the statement also said.
The U.S. commander of forces in Afghanistan said the massive bomb was used since ISIS-K has thickened their defense.
“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using [improvised explosive devices], bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” said Army Gen. John W. Nicholson. “This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K.”
It is not clear whether it was planned under the Obama administration or the Trump administration.
Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said the plan to drop the bomb has been in the works for a “few months,” and that the bomb had been in the country for “some time.”
President Donald Trump did not say whether he authorized the bombing, but said he has authorized the military, implying that senior military leaders had the authority to use the bomb:
Everybody knows exactly what happened. What I do is I authorize my military. We havethe greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job as usual. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.
“If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the past eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference, tremendous difference. So we have incredible leaders in the military, and we have incredible military. We are very proud of them. This was another very, very successful mission.
As for whether the dropping of the MOAB was meant to send a message to North Korea, Trump replied:
I don’t know if this sends a message, it doesn’t make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of.
The MOAB is GPS-guided with precision guidance. It was designed to put pressure on then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s military, according to an Air Force article.
“The goal is to have the pressure be so great that Saddam Hussein cooperates,” then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a March 2003 interview, according to the article. “Short of that – an unwillingness to cooperate – the goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the coalition.”
The MOAB’s final test was on March 11, 2003. It was first delivered into theater on April 1, 2003.