United States forces, at about 11:00 AM Eastern Time, Thursday, dropped a GBU-43 bomb on what was said to have been an ISIS cave complex in Afghanistan.
The bomb, officially a “Massive Ordinance Air Blast” (MOAB) weapon, is the most recent in a history of thermobaric, fuel-air weapons whose development by the USA and Russia began in the 1960s. (The Germans tried to create them during WW II, but didn’t get very far.)
As a big, conventional bomb the GBU-43 is a successor to the BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter," which was used in the Vietnam War and in Afghanistan. Both the US and the Russians have thermobaric bombs of similar size to the GBU-43 in their inventories of conventional weapons.
I never did like Hamid Karzai. He always seemed slimy and deceitful. So, his condemnation of this attack rings hollow, especially his accusation that it was a "misuse of [Afghanistan] as [a] testing ground for new and dangerous weapons." That's political speak for "I'm angry but can't create a cogent, logical, or true thought."
Besides, the device was tested in the US since at least 2003.
This particular MOAB was used against just the kind of target it was designed to destroy: an underground tunnel complex. ("Bunker buster" is another nickname for this kind of bomb.)
What concerns me most about the entire incident is that it opens serious questions about Trump's strategy for Afghanistan.
Trump’s press secretary said the target was "ISIS." That's been expanded in the media to say the target was an ISIS cave and tunnel complex in Afghanistan. Trump has said he was going to stop ISIS. Was this a real attack on ISIS or, like his "Muslim-banning Executive Orders," simply a sop (and a rather dramatic one) to his supporters? Is Trump trying to tell the world that a certain appendage of his is bigger than, say, George W. Bush's appendage? [Remember, please, that W started his war in order to prove his appendage was bigger than his daddy's appendage. Also so he could wear a really cool jacket and make a carrier landing—as a passenger. After all, "You can't be a Commander-in-Chief without a war."]
Trump has said he wants to get away from "nation building." That includes rebuilding—on the backs of the US taxpayers—the Afghan army, government, infrastructure, poppy fields, and drug distribution networks destroyed by decades of war. "Nation building" is a convenient fiction, a rationalization promoted for domestic and international consumption, which allows the US to keep troops (and bombs) in Afghanistan and elsewhere. How can Trump continue to fight ISIS in Afghanistan without the excuse of nation building there? How can he keep fighting in Pakistan without bases in Afghanistan, and the cooperation of the Afghan government?
The BBC was quite clear that the MOAB strike had been approved by Afghan officials. I didn't see that on CNN or NPC’s site, but may have missed it. The US Central Command's press release, as posted on Aljazeera, didn't mention that, nor did BBC cite their source. Aljazeera did quote a retired US Army brigadier who said it wasn't at all certain that [Afghan] political authorities were informed before the mission. Even though this guy wasn’t involved in any way, he can say “all but certain” without actually lying. Bottom line: this is a truth we'll never know.
Several sources including CNN and Aljazeera said the White House would not confirm whether or not Trump had [specifically] authorized the use of this [specific kind of] bomb. Another truth we'll never learn. IMHO, the generals, knowing Trump’s narcissism and Trump’s need to prove his appendage is a large one, would have told him... and probably shown him video of past tests.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.