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Why the Big US Bomb Was Dropped on Afghanistan

18 April 2017

"I have witnessed a countless number of explosions and bombings in the last 30 years of war in Afghanistan, but this one was more powerful than any other bomb as far as I remember". It was the first time this type of bomb had been used in combat and was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor in Nangarhar, said Saturday the number of Islamic State group dead was up from the 36 reported a day earlier.

Thursday's strike killed 36 Islamic State militants, according to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

"This is the right weapon for the right target", said U.S. Gen. John W. Nicholson, NATO commander in Afghanistan, at a news conference. He said there were no civilian casualties.

Afghanistan's Ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib said the colossal Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb was dropped after fighting had intensified over the last week. Afghan media quoted locals as saying they saw flames at the bombed site.

Afghan and U.S. forces were at the scene of the strike and reported that the "weapon achieved its intended goal", Nicholson said. "It was an earsplitting blast", said Shah Wali, 46, who lives in the village of Goor Gari, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the border with Nangarhar.

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But use of the bomb, which was developed in 2003, is a clear manifestation that new U.S. administration intends to rely heavily on use of its military might in Afghanistan, dealing a severe blow to prospects of peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is becoming complicated with the passage of time due to obstinate behaviour of the USA and Kabul Government.

"As a result of the bombing, key Daesh (IS) hideouts and deep tunnel complex were destroyed and 36 IS fighters were killed", the USA defence ministry said in a statement. President Donald Trump called Thursday's operation a "very, very successful mission". "Assessment of the casualties to the ISIS-K is in process", the Afghan Presidential Palace said in a statement.

Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in Washington and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, agrees that the bomb was a message for Islamic State, but he also notes that the bunker and tunnel complex the USA forces were targeting required the use of the huge bomb, which detonates above the surface and creates a shock wave that destroys everything and kills anyone in its path over a wide area.

The U.S. maintains over 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, training local forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.

While Islamic State's ranks in Afghanistan do include foreign fighters, Johnson said most of the extremist group's recruits are former Taliban members who joined for financial reasons.