‘Right weapon for right target’: Top US commander defends use of ‘mother of all bombs’
“This was the right weapon for the right target,” General John Nicholson said during a news conference in Kabul on Friday.
The GBU-43 bomb, referred to as the “mother of all bombs” by the US military, was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar on Thursday.
The US says it was dropped on its intended target, a “tunnel complex” used by ISIS-K, the Afghanistan affiliate of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
“The GBU-43 is designed to destroy caves and tunnels which ISIS-K have been using along with extensive belts of IEDs to thicken their positions against our offensive. The enemy used these tunnels and mine fields to move around the battlefield and protect themselves from the attacks from Afghan and US forces,” Nicholson said.
Fox host: Dropping MOAB is "what freedom looks like, that's the red, white, and blue."— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) April 14, 2017
Geraldo: It's one of my favorite things to watch. pic.twitter.com/E5X2lmTnSE
He went on to say that the weapon had been “very effective” in eliminating the targeted “sanctuary.”
The general said there is “no evidence” of the bomb causing any civilian casualties.
“We had persistent surveillance over the area before, during, and after the operation,” Nicholson said.
Afghan officials said the bomb killed 36 IS fighters, while confirming that no civilians had been hurt in the operation. IS has denied that their fighters were killed, according to their Amaq propaganda outlet.
When asked about the timing of the operation, Nicholson said it was simply conducted when the tunnels were encountered.
“This is the first time we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress that was constituted by the belts of IEDs, the presence of tunnels and caves... so that is all there is to the timing,” he said.
United against ‘animals’
Stressing the “brutality” of Islamic State, Nicholson cited the terrorist group’s crimes, including dragging elders out of their homes and beheading them in front of their families. Other elders have been forced to kneel on explosives before being blown up, according to the general.
He went on to say that IS has “murdered male family members, kidnapped their wives and daughters, and forced them to marry their fighters. Daesh (IS) has sent suicide bombers to attack peaceful demonstrations and have killed and wounded hundreds of innocent civilians."
“They have sent suicide bombers into mosques and murdered people during their prayer. And just last month they shot and stabbed hospital patients lying in their beds,” he said, while calling IS terrorists “animals” and “barbaric terrorists.”
Nicholson stressed that the Afghan army is leading the fight against the terrorists, and that the US is “committed to Afghanistan in this fight.”
“We are united with the Afghan government to prevent terrorists from establishing safe havens in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the US had coordinated with Kabul in conducting Thursday’s operation.
The general vowed that the US will not let up in its fight to eliminate the terrorist group from Afghanistan.
“Let me be clear: we will not relent in our mission to fight alongside our Afghan comrades to destroy ISIS-K in 2017,” he said.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has praised the operation, saying he is “very, very proud” of the military’s “successful job.”
Not everyone shares Trump’s enthusiasm, however. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has slammed the bombing in no uncertain terms.
“This is not the war on terror, but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as a testing ground for new and dangerous weapons,” Karzai said in a tweet.
I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear #bomb, on Afghanistan by US...1/2— Hamid Karzai (@KarzaiH) April 13, 2017
2/2 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...— Hamid Karzai (@KarzaiH) April 13, 2017
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden also sent out a tweet to say that the US had paid for the tunnel networks it is now bombing.
Others on social media also weighed in following news of the bombing, with many noting that the cost of the expensive explosion could have paid for public services such as Meals on Wheels, whose budget is being cut by the Trump administration.