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Here’s What The ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ Did For US Fight In Afghanistan
The use of the “mother of all bombs” on an underground network of Islamic State tunnels in a remote district in Afghanistan was a lot of hype with little long-term impact, according to many military analysts.
While breathless coverage of the use of the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal gave the appearance that the Trump administration was taking assertive military action, the weapon itself fell far short of delivering a knockout blow to militants in the area.
Even if it had, military experts argue that the U.S. shouldn’t be focusing its energy on the relatively small threat of Islamic State in Afghanistan. The Taliban are the real problem, rapidly retaking key districts that U.S. and British troops fought bloody battles to capture just years ago.
A mushroom cloud rises from the detonation of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan on April 13, 2017.DoD photo
“The Islamic State is on the fringe. It’s a small problem in Afghanistan compared to al-Qaida, the Taliban and other groups that operate there,” Bill Roggio, a military analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee Thursday. “The U.S. military has, frankly, downplayed this problem with the Taliban.”
The GBU-43/B massive ordnance air blast bomb, which had never been used in combat before U.S. forces dropped it April 13, is designed to detonate 6 feet above the ground, creating horizontal pressure that destroys targets on the surface and just below it. The U.S. military said it was the right weapon for the right target: a reinforced cave and tunnel complex used by entrenched ISIS fighters.
But there is little indication that the bomb dealt a devastating blow to the Islamic State in the area. The district government of Achin, the town in Nangarhar province where the bomb exploded, has said that at least 90 fighters died in the blast.
But the U.S. military has made no independent damage assessment, and the area is still an active combat zone. The U.S. military has restricted access to the site, turning away reporters and independent investigators.
Gunfire was audible in the background of a video from local Afghan police posted this week that showed the rubble left behind by the bombing, and a BBC reporter who was able to access the site reported that fighting continues close to where the bomb hit. U.S. planes, the reporter said, continue to strike around the site, suggesting that even after the powerful blast Islamic State militants remain in control of the area.
Two U.S. military service members were killed in an anti-ISIS operation Wednesday night in the district where the bomb was dropped, and a third was wounded in action.
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, has offered tough rhetoric on the Islamic State. The massive bomb was “sending a very clear message to ISIS … if they come here to Afghanistan, they will be destroyed,” he told a news conference in Kabul on Monday.
Many military analysts argue, however, that a U.S. focus on the Islamic State, which has about 1,000 fighters in Afghanistan, is picking the wrong target.
“For months most of our drone program has been focused on the Islamic State. Why? … It’s the Taliban who threaten our interests far and away more than the Islamic State does,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Department analyst for Afghanistan and Pakistan and resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank.
In the latest blow, suspected Taliban fighters killed more than 140 Afghan soldiers a week ago in what is believed to be the deadliest attack on Afghan forces since the U.S. and its allies toppled the Taliban in 2001 in retaliation for them sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Footage provided by Afghan Local Police, from the site where the U.S. Forces - Afghanistan conducted a strike using the MOAB against an ISIS-K complex in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan on April 14th 2017.DoD photo
The Taliban also have retaken critical areas, including, last month, the Sangin district center in Helmand province, which dozens of British troops and U.S. Marines died defending just a few years ago.
“The military put out what I will say is a ridiculous press release, saying ‘No, no, the district wasn’t overrun,’” Roggio said. “If that is the attitude of the U.S. military toward the Taliban inside Afghanistan, we will continue to lose this war … . Our policy within Afghanistan is a mess.”
The bomb temporarily brought the increasingly forgotten war in Afghanistan, which is in its 16th year, back to the public’s attention. There are more U.S. military forces — about 8,400 troops — deployed to Afghanistan than to any other active combat zone.
“The lasting effect (of the GBU-43/B bomb) is not so much strategic or tactical, but political,” Weinbaum said. “With this and (the strikes in) Syria, the Trump administration is demonstrating that it is prepared to use the military much more freely, and that they have freed up the military to really set the pace and agenda. I think that is the message now.”
Except for the choice of larger weapons, which hasn’t had a significant impact, there is really little that Trump is doing in Afghanistan for now that is different from President Barack Obama, Weinbaum said.
“He doesn’t really have any options. … It’s inherited circumstances, which means just buying time for an Afghanistan which is good enough” to leave, he said.
©2017 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.