WASHINGTON: The U.S. military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal Thursday on a cave-and-tunnel complex that it said was used by Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan, a stark reminder of a U.S. war now in its 16th grinding year. The behemoth bomb, officially called the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, is known as the “mother of all bombs.” It is 30 feet long, weighs nearly 11 tons and produces a devastating above-ground explosion that sends a mushroom cloud roiling high in the sky. It is the most powerful bomb the U.S. military has used since dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II, and has never been used in combat before. Like the U.S. retaliatory missile strike in Syria on Friday, however, use of the monster munition in Afghanistan is more symbolic than tactical, because it is unlikely to change the course of America’s longest war. President Donald Trump praised the bombing as a “very, very successful mission.” He indicated that he had given the Pentagon a free hand as part of his vow to step up the war on the Islamic State. “We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately,” he told reporters at the White House.
“If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the past eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference, tremendous difference,” he said. Although the Pentagon’s formal rules of engagement have not changed, military commanders appear to have taken greater liberties in recent weeks – and made more mistakes. A series of misdirected U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria and a botched ground raid in Yemen have led to a noticeable increase in reported civilian casualties. Earlier Thursday, the U.S. military announced that an airstrike this week had accidentally killed 18 rebel fighters battling the Islamic State in northern Syria in the worst friendly-fire incident of that conflict. The military said the massive bomb was dropped from the rear door of an MC-130 cargo plane at 7:32 p.m. Thursday as part of a U.S.-backed offensive on an Islamic State stronghold in Achin district in the eastern province of Nangarhar.