Afghan official: 36 ISIS fighters killed by ‘MOAB’

The massive bomb dropped by U.S. forces on an ISIS tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan killed 36 militants, according to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

The GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, also known as MOAB and dubbed the “mother of all bombs,” destroyed three underground tunnels but did not hurt any civilians, CNN reported. The 30-foot-long, 21,600-pound bomb is the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. military arsenal, capable of destroying an area equal to nine city blocks. It was dropped in the Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border, CNN reported, adding that it was the first time the bomb had been used in conflict.

A local resident living within two miles of the explosion told CNN that he heard an "extremely loud boom that smashed the windows of our house."

"We were all scared and my children and my wife were crying. We thought it had happened right in front of our house," he said.

President Donald Trump said Thursday the bombing was "another successful job." It is the third major military action his administration has taken in recent months, following a military raid in Yemen that killed civilians and a U.S. Marine, and last week's surprise strike on a Syrian airfield, CNN reported.

On Twitter, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani approved of the strike, saying it was "designed to support the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and US forces ... conducting clearance operations in the region."

"Precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties with this air strike," Ghani said.

When asked about Thursday’s use of the most powerful non-nuclear bomb, President Trump did not say whether he gave the approval, CNN reported.

“Everybody knows exactly what happens. So, what I do is I authorize our military,” Trump said.

“We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing.”

Hakim Khan, 50, a resident of Achin district where the attack took place, welcomed the attack on ISIS.

“I want 100 times more bombings on this group," he told The Associated Press.

USAF/Getty Images






First on CNN: US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan

The US military dropped America's most powerful non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan Thursday, the first time this type of weapon has been used in battle, according to US officials.

A GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the "mother of all bombs," was dropped at 7:32 p.m. local time, according to four US military officials with direct knowledge of the mission. A MOAB is a 30-foot-long, 21,600-pound, GPS-guided munition.

President Donald Trump called it "another successful job" later Thursday.

The bomb was dropped by an MC-130 aircraft, stationed in Afghanistan and operated by Air Force Special Operations Command, Pentagon spokesman Adam told CNN.

Officials said the target was an ISIS cave and tunnel complex and personnel in the Achin district of the Nangarhar province, a remote area in the country's east which borders Pakistan.

"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," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said later Thursday. The strike "targeted a system of tunnels and cave that ISIS fighters use to move around freely."

Afghanistan's ambassador to the US, Hamdullah Mohib, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin that the bomb was dropped after fighting had intensified over the last week between US Special Forces and Afghan troops against ISIS.

The US and Afghan forces were unable to advance because ISIS had mined the area with explosives, so the bomb was dropped to clear the tunnels, Mohib said.

Trump declined to say whether he personally signed off on the strike, but did comment, "Everybody knows exactly what happens. So, what I do is I authorize our military."

He continued, "We have given them total authorization and that's what they're doing."

Asked about Trump's "total authorization" comments, a senior administration official declined to specify whether the President indeed ordered the strike in Afghanistan.

But the official said that in general, "We don't approve every strike," adding that, "This administration has moved further away" from dictating military strategy from the White House.

It's a change both Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted, the official said.

The President has granted military commanders broader latitude to act independently on several battlefields where US forces are involved, which Trump touted as making a "tremendous difference" in the fight against ISIS.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to eradicate ISIS, saying he would "bomb the s**t" out of the terror group, also known as ISIL.

Republican hawks were quick to voice their support for the strike Thursday.

"I hope America's adversaries are watching & now understand there's a new sheriff in town," tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. "Pleased Air Force dropped MOAB against ISIL in Afghanistan. Must be more aggressive against ISIL everywhere - including Afghanistan."

But California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier voiced concerns about potentially increasing US military involvement in Afghanistan.

"We are escalating in an area I think we should be deescalating in," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Coupled with what happened in Yemen, what happened in Syria, these are efforts that are made to suggest that we will be engaging in wars in three different countries simultaneously."

Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb, according to the sources. The authority to deploy the weapon was granted to Nicholson by the commander of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, Stump said.

This is the first time a MOAB has been used in the battlefield, according to the US officials. This munition was developed during the Iraq war and is an air blast-type warhead that explodes before hitting the ground in order to project a a massive blast to all sides.

During the final stages of testing in 2003, military officials told CNN that the MOAB was mainly conceived as a weapon employed for "psychological operations." Military officials said they hoped the MOAB would create such a huge blast that it would rattle Iraqi troops and pressure them into surrendering or not even fighting.

As originally conceived, the MOAB was to be used against large formations of troops and equipment or hardened above-ground bunkers. The target set has also been expanded to include targets buried under softer surfaces, like caves or tunnels.

But while the MOAB bomb detonates with the power of 18,000 pounds of tritonal explosives, the size of its explosion pales in comparison to that of a nuclear bomb.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry described the stark difference in power between a MOAB and nuclear bomb.
"The #MOAB explosive yield is 0.011 kilotons, typical nuclear yield is 10-180 kilotons - the US alone possesses over 7000 nuclear weapons," he tweeted.

"As ISIS-K's losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense," Nicholson said in a statement following the strike.

"This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K," Nicholson added.

"US forces took every precaution to avoid civilian casualties with this strike. US Forces will continue offensive operations until ISIS-K is destroyed in Afghanistan," read the statement from US Forces Afghanistan.

The extent of the damage and whether anyone was killed is not yet clear. The military is currently conducting an assessment.

The Pentagon is currently reviewing whether to deploy additional trainers to Afghanistan to help bolster US allies there.

The Achin district is the primary center of ISIS activity in Afghanistan. A US Army Special Forces soldier was killed fighting the terror group there Saturday.

There are about 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan and they regularly perform counterterrorism operations against ISIS in the Nangarhar Province.

The US counterterrorism mission is separate from the NATO-led effort to train, advise and assist the Afghan army and police force.

While ISIS is identified primarily with its presence in Iraq and Syria, US and coalition officials have long expressed concern about a growing presence in Afghanistan.

ISIS first emerged in the summer of 2015 in the country's east, fast gaining ground and support, often among disaffected Taliban or Afghan youth.

US military officials have said the ISIS branch is largely comprised of former members of regional terror groups, including the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

A US official told CNN that the military estimates are that the Afghan affiliate of ISIS has about 600 to 800 fighters, primarily based in two to three districts in southern Nangarhar. There are also a small number of ISIS operatives in Kunar province as well, the official added.

The Afghan offshoot's link to the organization's Syria-based leadership has been questioned. Many say in fact the Afghan ISIS fighters came from Pakistan and adopted the group's branding in order to get financing.


MOAB strike: US bombing of IS in Afghanistan 'killed dozens'

A US military strike with a weapon known as the "mother of all bombs" (MOAB) killed 36 IS militants and destroyed their base, the Afghan defence ministry says.

The biggest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat was dropped on an IS tunnel complex in Nangarhar province.
No civilians were affected by the explosion, the ministry said.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as "an inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country".

Chief Executive of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah confirmed that the attack had been carried out in co-ordination with the government and that "great care had been taken to avoid civilian harm".

The Afghan defence ministry said the bomb struck a village area in the Momand valley where IS fighters were using a 300m-long network of caves.

It said the 21,600lb (9,800kg) bomb also destroyed a large stash of weapons.

Presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi told the BBC that IS commander Siddiq Yar was among those killed. Mr Murtazawi said the IS fighters in the tunnels had "come from Pakistan and were persecuting people in the local area".

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb was dropped by plane in Achin district on Thursday evening local time, the Pentagon said.

More than 9m (30 ft) in length, it was first tested in 2003 but had not been deployed in combat before.
Achin district governor Ismail Shinwary told the BBC that Afghan special forces, with the help of American air support, had begun anti-IS operations in the area 13 days ago.

He said IS targets had been bombed regularly but "last night's bombarding was very powerful... the biggest I have ever seen".

Nangarhar Provincial Governor Gulab Mangal said IS fighters had used the complex to "kill people and hold important meetings".

A member of an anti-IS group in the area who gave his name only as Mohammad told the BBC he was at a checkpoint 1km from the bomb strike.

He said: "We were eating dinner when we heard a big explosion, [I] came out of my room and saw a mountain of fire... the area was full of light with the fire of the bomb."

He said all civilians had left the area since the start of the anti-IS operation.

The clue is in the ungainly name - the MOAB or GBU-43/B massive ordnance air blast is the US military's most destructive conventional (that is non-nuclear) bomb.

It is a huge weapon and is GPS-guided. It was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft - the US Special Forces variant of the Hercules transport. The weapon is carried on a special cradle inside the aircraft from which it is extracted by a parachute.

Its principal effect is a massive blast over a huge area. It is a larger version of weapons used during the Vietnam War.

The Trump administration's policy towards Afghanistan remains under consideration but the use of this weapon sends a powerful signal that IS is top of the administration's target list wherever its offshoots may be found.
The US has yet to confirm the results of the strike but President Donald Trump called it "another successful job".

The BBC's Jill McGivering says it remains unclear what President Trump's Afghan strategy will be - he has talked in the past about the need for the US to get out of nation-building and may be keen to extricate himself from this long-running and expensive conflict.

But, she says, he has also expressed determination to stop the spread of IS.

Hamid Karzai vehemently condemned the attack, saying on Twitter it was "not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons".

Syria error
IS announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch - an old name for Afghanistan and surrounding areas - in January 2015. It was the first time that IS had officially spread outside the Arab world.

It was the first major militant group to directly challenge the Afghan Taliban's dominance over the local insurgency.

However, experts say it has struggled to build a wide political base and the indigenous support it expected. It has steadily lost territory and fighters to US air strikes and an assault by Afghan forces on the ground.

Estimates about IS's numerical strength inside Afghanistan vary, ranging from several hundred to a few thousand fighters. US forces say their number has been cut in half since early 2016 due to military operations.

The MOAB strike followed last week's death of a US special forces soldier fighting IS in Nangarhar.

The news also came hours after the Pentagon admitted an air strike in Syria mistakenly killed 18 rebels.

It said a partnered force had mistakenly identified the target location as an IS position, but the strike on 11 April had killed rebels from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are backed by Washington.

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