UPDATE — 4/15, 12:44 p.m. EDT: A Nangarhar province spokesman said Saturday that 94 militants have perished after the U.S. bombing Thursday which targeted an ISIS satellite group in eastern Afghanistan.
According to U.S. intelligence estimates, between 600 and 800 ISIS members are located in Afghanistan. Over 8,000 American troops are currently training Afghan forces and fighting terrorist groups there, including the Taliban.
In a first, the United States has dropped a 21,000-pound bomb on an Islamic State (ISIS) tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan.
Known as the GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast, the device is the second-most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The bomb was kicked out of the back of a C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft over its intended target in Nangahar Province in eastern Afghanistan on the border with Pakistan Thursday.
The weapon’s blast radius is approximately one mile.
Targeting an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, Islamic State, Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the bomb blast reportedly killed 36 Islamic militants and destroyed both a tunnel network and weapon store.
Active in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan, the group allegedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014 and has claimed responsibility for over 20 terror attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past two years.
The site of heavy fighting between U.S. forces and Taliban terrorists since the U.S. began conducting military operations in 2001, Nangahar has emerged to become an ISIS stronghold. One American was killed over the weekend during counter-ISIS operations.
“As ISIS-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense. This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against ISIS-K,” read a statement from General John W. Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Addressing the media following its use, White House spokesman Sean Spicer explained some details of the intended target.
“We targeted a system of tunnels and caves which ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. advisers and Afghan forces. We must deny them operational space,” he said. “The U.S. took all steps to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage.”
In comments to the press in Washington, President Trump said the bombing was “another successful event,” and hinted he gave military commanders “total authorization” to carry out the attack.
“If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to really what’s happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference,” he said.
[Reuters] [NPR] [Daily Mail] [The Sun] [NBC News] [AP] [Photo courtesy YouTube]