Massive Bomb Strike Divides Afghan Opinion with Critics Questioning Motives
U.S. use of a massive bomb against Islamic State extemists in Afghanistan has proven divisive in the region, winning support from political and military authorities in Kabul but strong condemnations from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan.
In a series of three tweets, Karzai said, “I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear #bomb, on Afghanistan by U.S. military. This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons. It is upon us, Afghans, to stop the #USA.
Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan, tweeted, “I find the use of the largest non-nuclear bomb, the so-called “mother of all bombs,” on our soil reprehensible & counterproductive. If big bombs were the solution we would be the most secure place on earth today.”
U.S. forces dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast, an almost 30-foot giant weighing approximately 10 tons, on the Achin district of Nangarhar province Thursday night. The strike was described as part of a campaign to destroy the Islamic State Khorasan Province group, the local chapter of IS.
General John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, said Friday that his forces had coordinated the attack with the Afghan government, “just as we have since we started these operations in early March.” A statement issued earlier by President Ashraf Ghani stressed the same point.
WATCH: US Dept. of Defense video of bomb strike
Nicholson said circumstances on the ground justified the use of the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever used by the United States military.
“This munition, this weapon, was the right weapon against this target,” he said. “The enemy had created bunkers, tunnels, and extensive minefields and this weapon was used to reduce those obstacles so that we could continue our offensive into southern Nangarhar.”
WATCH: Gen. Nicholson on why MOAB was used
U.S. President Donald Trump was asked Thursday whether the attack was intended to send a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is reportedly poised to conduct a new nuclear weapons test as early as this weekend. But Nicholson insisted the decision was based solely on the analysis of conditions in Nangarhar.
“It was the right time to use it tactically, against the right target on the battlefield,” he said.
Nicholson said U.S. and Afghan forces were on the ground after the strike and had not seen any evidence of civilian casualties.
WATCH: What is a MOAB bomb ?
Some local elders said most of the civilians in that area had already fled due to the presence of IS as well as extended fighting between IS and government forces. However, they expressed concern over the fate of people whom they said IS had held hostage.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban issued a statement condemning the use of the weapon and said there was no presence of IS in Afghanistan.
“Using such a heavy weapon in the name of IS is using our territory for experimentation,” the statement said.
Nicholson said the operation against IS in Nangahar has liberated more than 400 square kilometers since its inception.