Author: Ahmad Sultan
Isis has released a statement denying that any of its fighters were killed or injured by the massive bomb dropped by the US in Afghanistan.
In a statement issued via the jihadi group’s Amaq News Agency, Isis denied any casualties following the strike, which involved the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat by the US.
As many as 36 suspected Isis fighters were killed in the strike – using a weapon known officially as a GBU-43B, or massive ordnance air blast weapon – in the eastern province of Nangarhar, according to Afghan officials.
The top US military commander in Afghanistan – General John Nicholson – said that the decision to deploy the bomb was purely tactical, and made as part of the campaign against Isis-linked fighters.
The strike came as US President Donald Trump prepares to dispatch his first high-level delegation to Kabul, amid uncertainty about his plans for the nearly 9,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Nicknamed “the mother of all bombs,” the weapon was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar, bordering Pakistan.
General Nicholson said he was in constant communication with officials in Washington, but the decision to use the 21,600-pound (9,797-kg) bomb was based on his assessment of military needs and not broader political considerations.
“This was the first time that we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress,” he said of a joint Afghan-US operation that has been targeting Isis since March.
“It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield.”
Afghan and US. forces were at the scene of the strike and reported that the “weapon achieved its intended purpose,”, General Nicholson said.
Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said no civilians were harmed in the massive blast that targeted a network of caves and tunnels that had been heavily mined.
“No civilian has been hurt and only the base, which Daesh used to launch attacks in other parts of the province, was destroyed,” Mr Waziri said in a statement.
He was using an Arabic term that refers to Isis, which has established a small stronghold in eastern Afghanistan and launched deadly attacks on the capital, Kabul.
The GBU-43 is a GPS-guided munition that had never before been used in combat since its first test in 2003, when it produced a mushroom cloud visible from 20 miles (32 km) away.
The bomb’s destructive power – it unleashes power equivalent to 11 tons of explosives – pales in comparison with the relatively small atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World, which had blasts equivalent to between 15,000 and 20,000 tonnes of TNT.
In Achin village, about three miles (5km) from the remote, mountainous area where the bomb was dropped, witnesses said the ground shook, but homes and shops appeared unaffected.
“Last night’s bomb was really huge, when it dropped, everywhere, it was shaking,” said resident Palstar Khan, adding that he believed no civilians were in the area hit.
He praised the strike, saying killing Isis fighters was a “positive move.”
Other residents said they were used to seeing militants climbing up and down the mountain every day, making occasional visits to the village.
“They were Arabs, Pakistanis, Chinese and local insurgents coming to buy from shops in the bazaar,” said resident Raz Mohammad.