ACHIN, Afghanistan. The United States dropped a 20,000 pound bomb in a remote area of Afghanistan to kill Al-Qaeda fighters believed to be hiding in mountainous area of the war torn land. Local residents were not impressed with the display of American “shock and awe.”
On Thursday night, American forces dropped one of the largest conventional bombs ever used in combat on what they described as a tunnel complex used by Islamic State militants in Nangarhar’s Achin district.
The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast is a large-yield conventional bomb, developed for the United States military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory. At the time of development, it was touted as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed.The bomb was designed to be delivered by a C-130 Hercules, primarily the MC-130E Combat Talon I or MC-130H Combat Talon II variants.
Former US military official Marc Garlasco, who served in the George W. Bush administration, reported that the “US never dropped the MOAB in Iraq due to collateral damage concerns. I was on the targeting team that considered it.”
The MOAB has been used once in combat, which was in the Thursday airstrike against ISIS forces in Afghanistan. Several news organizations called it the largest conventional bomb ever used in combat, although the 22,000-pound Grand Slam earthquake bombs that were dropped during World War II had around the same weight, but were designed for penetration and carried less explosives.
Now, US officials say militants affiliated to the Middle East-based Islamic State network have begun fortifying caves in the region in an effort to hold off joint operations by Afghan and US forces.
Some residents in areas of Achin recently liberated from Islamic State occupation welcomed Thursday’s strike, which hit headlines around the world and has been widely interpreted as a deliberate show of strength by US President Donald Trump.
“If you want to destroy and eliminate Daesh, then even if you destroy my home we won’t complain, because they are not human beings, they are savages,” said resident Mir Alam Shinwari, using an Arabic term for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“The fact is that America used their big bomb here to test its effectiveness,” said Kabul resident Asadullah Khaksar. “If America wants to eliminate Daesh, it is very easy because they created this group.”
Rahim Khan, another Kabul resident, also took a sceptical view of America’s role in the fighting. “If this bombing was indeed for the elimination of Daesh this is a good move, but I don’t believe it,” he said. “This is all imposed on Afghanistan for proxy war.”
Many Afghans remain deeply suspicious of Washington’s motives in sending troops to the country more than 15 years ago, and view the American ongoing presence as a form of occupation.