The Trump political machine seems to be transforming into the Trump war machine with the use of a 21,000-pound bomb, dropped on Afghanistan on what the Pentagon believes was an ISIS stronghold on the eastern border near Pakistan. It is said to be the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States military arsenal, and was the first time the bomb had ever been used.
At a news conference on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefly acknowledged the attack. “In order to defeat the group we must deny them operational space, which we did,” Spicer said. He diverted other questions about the operation to the Department of Defense.
But is dropping megabombs going to be President Trump’s policy toward ISIS and anything else he feels is a threat to America? Last week, he launched an airstrike against Syria that he intended to make a statement to its dictator Bashar Assad. This week it’s Afghanistan. Could it be something else next week?
More info is certain to come out, but here’s what we know so far
- The bomb, officially called the GBU-43 or Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed mother of all bombs. It has 11 tons of explosives. It is so large that it was loaded into the cargo hold of an MC-130 Combat Talon aircraft and rolled out of the rear door to fall on its target, according to the Pentagon. It was developed during the war in Iraq, but not used there. It is so powerful it creates a blast radius a mile wide in each direction.
- The target was apparently a network of tunnels the U.S. military believes ISIS was building near the Pakistan border. The White House has not given any indication of a reason for dropping the MOAB, but fighting between Afghan and U.S. forces and ISIS in the region. “The strike was designed to minimize the risk to Afghan and U.S. Forces conducting clearing operations in the area while maximizing the destruction of ISIS-K fighters and facilities,” the Pentagon said in a statement, referring to ISIS forces in the country. It is unclear if there were any civilian casualties, but officials say “every precaution” was taken to avoid them.
- The U.S. made 20 MOAB bombs at a cost of $314 million, according to Deagel.com. To put this into perspective, the Trump administration last month announced plans to cut $3 million in Community Development Block Grants, including funding to programs like Meals on Wheels, which served 219 million meals to 2 million needy seniors in 2015. The federal government also provides $450 million in funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which in turn funds local PBS stations, but that money is threatened also by the budget cuts. Dropping bombs on caves in Afghanistan, yes. Helping old folks to eat and children to learn from Sesame Street? Not so much.
- This may be the mother of all bombs, but guess who’s got the “father of all bombs”? Russia, that’s who. In 2007, the Kremlin reported that it had delivered its own non-nuclear weapon, called the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power and said to be four times as powerful as the MOAB. It is said to be so powerful that it replaced several small nuclear weapons in the Russian arsenal and has an explosive power equivalent to 44 tons of TNT, according to GlobalSecurity.org, and is capable of completely evaporating everything within 1,000 meters of its point of explosion.
- Need to feel better about U.S.-Russia relations? You might need to wait a while. This week, Trump said that relationship was at an “all-time low.” Now when you think about it, things were pretty bad from the 1950s through the 80s when the threat of nuclear war loomed between the two countries over the tenures of several U.S. presidents and Russian premieres. In fact, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is still within living memory. The 13-day confrontation between the two superpowers (although that was with the then-Soviet Union and not the Russian Federation) almost brought the globe to the brink of nuclear annihilation. If Trump is saying things are worse than that, then things are pretty dire indeed.