US forces in Afghanistan on Thursday struck a Daesh (Islamic State) tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan with “the mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat by the US military, Pentagon officials said.
The bomb, known officially as a GBU-43B, or massive ordnance air blast weapon, unleashes 11 tons of explosives. When it was developed in the early 2000s the Pentagon did a formal review of legal justification for its combat use.
Meanwhile, addressing a press briefing minutes after dropping the MOAB, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the United States’ use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan was done to deny ISIS “operational space.” Spicer said the weapon targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS used to move around freely.
“The US takes the fight against ISIS very seriously and to defeat the group we must deny them operational space — which we did,” the press secretary said.
When asked if the US would consider using the munition in other combat zones, Spicer referred questions to the Department of Defence.
The US military headquarters in Kabul said in a statement that the bomb was dropped at 7:32 p.m. local time Thursday on a tunnel complex in Achin district of Nangarhar province, where the Afghan affiliate of the Daesh group has been operating.
The target was close to the Pakistani border.
Adam Stump, a Pentagon spokesman, said the bomb was dropped from a US Air Force MC-130 transport, which he said had been brought to Afghanistan “some time ago” for potential use.
Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said in a written statement that the strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and US forces conducting clearing operations in the Achin area “while maximizing the destruction” of Daesh fighters and facilities. He said Daesh has been using improvised explosive devices, bunkers and tunnels to strengthen its defenses.
“This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K,” he added, using the US military’s acronym for the Daesh affiliate.
The apparent target of the air strike was a network of caves used by the militant Islamic State. It was the first time this type of bomb had been used in combat, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.
CNN’s Barbara Starr says dropping the MOAB “sends a message to insurgents that the US military will come after them” Also known as the “mother of all bombs”, a MOAB is a 21,600 pound GPS guided munition. It is America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb hit a “tunnel complex” in Achin district in Nangarhar province, US Forces Afghanistan said in a statement. “The GBU-43/B is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat,” Air Force spokesman Colonel Pat Ryder said.
“As (ISIS-Khorasan’s) losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense,” said General John Nicholson, who heads US Forces Afghanistan.
According to the Air Force, the last time the MOAB was tested in 2003, a huge mushroom cloud could be seen from 32 kilometers away.—Agencies