The Trump administration made another high-profile show of force today, this time in Afghanistan, by dropping a 21,600-pound bomb on an ISIS cave-and-tunnel complex in Nangarhar province. CNN reports:
The military is currently assessing the damage. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb, according to the sources. The authority to deploy the weapon was granted to Nicholson by the commander of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, Stump said.
This is the first time a MOAB has been used in the battlefield, according to the US officials. This munition was developed during the Iraq War.
Most headlines about the strike jumped on what makes the Massive Ordinance Air Bomb (MOAB) unique—that it’s the “largest non-nuclear bomb” in the U.S. arsenal and this is the first time the MOAB has been used in combat. But the MOAB was also designed for “psychological operations”, and while it should scare the pants off ISIS fighters on the Af-Pak border, it also sends a signal further afield—something the Trump Administration appears to be increasingly fond of doing lately.
But was this overt signaling to the North Koreans? It’s hard to tell. From a purely tactical perspective, knocking out ISIS bunkers and caves in remote, dangerous places like Nangarhar is exactly the kind of mission this weapon was designed for. White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to clarify whether or not President Trump or other Administration officials were specifically briefed in advance or gave approval for the strike, referring questions to the Pentagon.
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter, as it’s beyond doubt that the big explosion in eastern Afghanistan was heard loud and clear in Pyongyang.