The U.S. military unleashed a GBU-43/B bomb for the first time on a remote area of Afghanistan. The weapon weighs 21,000 pounds, is more than 30 feet long and known informally as a MOAB, or "mother of all bombs." Officially, MOAB stands for massive ordinance air blast. It is the largest non-nuclear ordnance the U.S. military has.
The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed the bomb was dropped in Afghanistan at at 7 p.m. local time on April 13 by a MC-130 aircraft, reports the Independent. According to the Pentagon, it was used to target a tunnel complex used by ISIS-affiliated militants in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, which is close to the border with Pakistan.
The BBC reports the blast was so powerful, it was heard as far away as neighboring provinces.
The U.S. reportedly told the BBC that "many IS militants were killed, allegedly including the brother of a senior leader."
It was unclear at the time whether or not the strike was ordered by President Donald Trump, though he reportedly called it "another successful job." The Pentagon said the operation was in the planning stages for months, but it did not specify if it had been planned by the previous administration.
The MOAB strike on Afghanistan has been opposed by several leaders, including former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He tweeted, "I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear #bomb, on Afghanistan by U.S. 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…"
The MOAB has a massive blast over an incredibly large area. The blast radius is up to 1,000 yards, and the concussive shock wave it creates can be felt up to 1.7 miles away. The weapon needs to be carried in a special cradle. The cloud it creates can be 10,000 feet high and visible from dozens of miles away.
Many have said the use of the MOAB is purely for psychological effect.
In a written statement, U.S. Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said the strike was planned in such a way to reduce the risk to U.S. and Afghan forces while clearing the area of ISIS fighters. The operation was designed for "maximizing the destruction" of an area that had been fortified with bunkers, tunnels and improvised explosive devises.
"This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against Isis," Nicholson said.
This airstrike came on the heels of an April 11 strike that mistakenly killed 18 Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel group the U.S. backs. U.S. Central Command described the attack as "misdirected" and shortly after another errant U.S. strike killed at least 33 people west of Raqqa, Syria.