Afghans react to MOAB: 'if big bombs were the solution, our country would be peaceful'
The United States' use of the most lethal non-nuclear bomb in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan has left Afghans in shock.
People and leaders from the war-torn country say if big bombs were the solution, Afghanistan would be the most peaceful place on earth. They also questioned whether a strike of this scale would further complicate matters.
While efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table are being aggressively pursued, another terror outfit, the Islamic State's Khorasan chapter, said to be active in areas close to the Pakistan border, has been making the security establishment uneasy. The latest outreach to the Taliban by Russia, experts point out, is a result of fear of the growing influence of this new terror outfit.
A large section of the Afghan leadership believes that like the Taliban, the IS Khorasan network, too, enjoys support from the Pakistani security establishment.
Condemnation from Afghans
The latest strike may aggravate the faultlines in the war-torn country, where a section of political elite, including former President Hamid Karzai, have been openly opposing such attacks.
While US President Donald Trump described it as a successful mission, the opinion in Afghanistan is deeply divided.
“I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear #bomb, on Afghanistan by US..,” Karzai said in a series of tweets.
“This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons. It is upon us,Afghans, to stop the #USA.”
There were voices of dissent from serving Afghan diplomats too.
“I find the use of the largest non- nuclear bomb, the so called 'mother of all bombs', on our soil reprehensible & counterproductive,” Omar Zakhliwal, President Ashraf Ghani's special envoy and Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, wrote on Twitter.
“If big bombs were the solution we would be the most secure place on earth today.”
The strike shook even members of the Afghan diaspora. “US didn't want Afghanistan to become a breeding ground for terrorists. Afg is now a testing ground for US bombs. #Afghanistan,” said another tweet.
However, the strike seemed to have been done in close coordination with Afghan forces. President Ghani wrote on Twitter: “Following efforts to defeat ISIS-K in #Nangarhar, U.S. Forces –#AFG conducted strike on ISIS-K tunnel complex in Achin district.”
“The air strike was designed to support the efforts of the ANSF and U.S. Forces as well as minimize the risk to ANSF and the U.S. Forces,” he said.
Mother of all bombs
On Thursday evening, locals in Achin, in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, were taken aback by a mushroom cloud of smoke that followed a loud bang, after US forces dropped what is called the 'Mother of All Bombs', a GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, said to be one of the most powerful conventional weapons in existence.
The 21,000-pound bomb, which explodes above the surface, affected an area as big as one mile in radius.
In a radius of four kilometres of the strike, there were reports of destruction, of shattered windows, and other damage to houses. Tremors were felt as far as 20 miles away from Asadkhel, the region in Achin where the bomb struck, according to accounts by local journalists in Kabul.
GBU-43, which cost a whopping $16 million, is said to be an advanced version of Daisy Cutter, another such bomb, which the US forces used in their early days of combat in Afghanistan, targeting Al Qaeda sanctuaries.
The Afghan security personnel on the ground in Achin were asked to move at least two miles away before the attack, which targeted a complicated network of tunnels being used by Islamic State fighters.
Bilal Sarwary, a senior journalist in Kabul, wrote on social media on how the bomb targeted a meeting of the Islamic State. He claims that as many as 100 IS operatives may have been affected by the attack. The exact number is still not known, as the Afghan and US forces have further intensified operations.
"Afghan forces were given some sort of earphones&moved 2KMs into Shaddle bazzar before strike was launched,” Sarwary tweeted.
Hours before the strike, Hanif Atmar, the National Security Advisor of Afghanistan, was in Nangarhar, with General John Nicholson, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan.
No reaction from India
India's Ministry of External Affairs is yet to react to the attack, even though some reports suggest that some Indians who had travelled to Afghanistan to join the terror outfit may have been affected.
Sources in the MEA said information would take time to come in, but they understand that the target area of the attack did not have much inhabitation, except the reported complex of tunnels and caves used by the Islamic State.