The United States military launched a Massive Ordnance Air Blast aka the “Mother of all Bobs” at an ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan in an attempt to fulfill President Donald Trump’s promise to “bomb the sh**” out of ISIS.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. took “all precautions” to limit the number of civilian casualties, but so far no news seems to be forthcoming of how much collateral damage the MOAB actually did.
The MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. Army’s arsenal, was developed in 2003 but has never been used before. During the Bush administration, the Pentagon did consider using the bomb in Iraq, however, they did not do so citing safety concerns for civilians.
Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon senior chief of high-value targeting under Bush said, “The concern there was that once the weapon was put forward as an option, we reviewed it, did a collateral damage estimate, and well let’s just say the collateral damage was impressive. It was decided that the civilian harm greatly outweighed the military gain.”
“Impressive,” he said. But, the number of Syrian fighters killed in the bombing did not seem all that impressive.
The morning after the attack, the U.S. military announced the strike had killed 36 ISIS fighters in Achin, Afghanistan. However, earlier this week one senior Afghan security official in Kabul announced that the attack had killed 96 militants, 13 of them major commanders.
The official, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to talk to media, provided names and background information about the commanders, who belonged to tribal areas of Pakistan, Central Asia and India.
Yet, he also did not provide proof of how the officials estimated the number of deaths was 96 — and that not a single civilian was killed since MOAB, being the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. military’s arsenal, is actually capable of wreaking havoc of a much larger proportion.
According to the stats, it seems quite impossible that the bomb did not result in collateral damage.
The American military personnel argued the use of the bomb was justified because the complex tunnels of the Tangi Assadkhel area of Achin made the job of eliminating the militants difficult. But the reluctance of the United States to discuss the damages from the 21,600lb bomb has concerned local officials.
“Why the bomb with such a big destruction had such few casualties?” said Nangarhar provincial council member Naser Kamawal. “If there was some 90 Islamic State militants, then why were our own Afghan forces not able to eliminate them in a military operation — what was the need for using such a big bomb?”
There is also the fact that American forces did not let anyone, even the Afghan Army, make it to the bombing site.
“I and other people have this concern — that why American forces are not letting anyone visit the scene of the bombing?” said Zabihullah Zmarai, a council member in Nangarhar Province. “The U.S. authorities should provide an answer to this question.”
So did the bomb complete its mission adequately and did not take any innocent lives? And if it did, why is the U.S. military being so cagey about it?
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters