‘Mother of all bombs’ dropped on ISIS target: What we know so far
Editor's note: This article was updated at 11:20 a.m. April 14, 2017, to include new information.
The United States dropped "the mother of all bombs" on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan on April 13.
Discussion of the non-nuclear bomb’s sheer size has drowned out what actually happened, though we don’t have a lot of details or any footage from the ground as of publication.
Here’s what we know so far.
The U.S. military dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed MOAB or "mother of all bombs," in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. The bomb was part of "ongoing efforts to defeat ISIS-K" in Afghanistan, according to a statement from the Defense Department.
ISIS-K, or ISIS-Khorasan, is the terrorist organization’s presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the bomb "targeted a system of tunnels and caves ISIS fighters used."
Afghan officials said the bomb killed up to 36 suspected members of ISIS, and there were no civilian casualties, according to Reuters.
A member of U.S. Special Forces, Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, died of injuries after his unit came into contact with "enemy forces" in Nangarhar province several days earlier, on April 8. His unit was assisting Afghan forces in fighting insurgents with ties to ISIS, according to a statement from United States Forces-Afghanistan.
The Defense Department said U.S. forces took "every precaution" to avoid civilian casualties. The military is conducting an assessment of the strike, according to CNN.
It’s not yet clear how much President Donald Trump knew about the strike. When reporters asked him if he personally authorized the strike, he said, "We have the greatest military in the world and they’ve done a job, as usual. We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing," according to Bloomberg News.
He said the operation was a success.
How big is this bomb, really?
This incident is significant in part because it’s the first time the United States has used the GBU-43/B, the U.S. military’s largest non-nuclear bomb, in combat. The satellite-guided bomb has a blast yield of 11 tons of TNT, and the resulting mushroom cloud can be seen 20 miles away, according to the Defense Department.
Here's drone footage of the bomb dropping on the ISIS target in Afghanistan (via the Pentagon/USA Today).
That’s pretty big. But it’s still nowhere near as powerful as a nuclear bomb.
The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 1,363 times as powerful as the MOAB, with the force of 15,000 tons of TNT. The most powerful nuclear bomb the United States has ever tested, Castle Bravo in 1954, had the power of 15 million tons of TNT.
Russia’s non-nuclear answer to the GBU-43/B is its "father of all bombs," which has the force of 44 tons of TNT.
What's the reaction from Afghanistan?
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing in a series of tweets.
"I vehemently and in strongest words condemn the dropping of the latest weapon, the largest non-nuclear #bomb, on Afghanistan by US military," he tweeted. "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."
How did Congress react?
Reaction from lawmakers was slow immediately after the bombing.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the strike "sends a clear message that the United States is committed and determined to defeating ISIS and other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan," in a statement released Thursday. Inhofe is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said the president should explain to the American people about "his escalation of military force in Afghanistan," in comments posted to Twitter.
Lee is famous for her lone vote against the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which both President Barack Obama and Trump used as justification for military strikes.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted, "Pleased Air Force dropped MOAB against ISIL in Afghanistan. Must be more aggressive against ISIL everywhere — including Afghanistan."
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said Trump "isn’t necessarily front and center evaluating it and speaking to the American people about what his strategy is," regarding the strike and his counterterrorism policy. She also said his action "seems driven on what effect it will have on domestic policy."
How is Trump approaching the fight against ISIS?
Trump has so far built on Obama’s trajectory in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
In Syria, the Trump administration has accelerated airstrikes and said in March that it would send 400 additional troops there. (The fight against ISIS in Syria is separate from Trump’s April 6 strike against dictator Bashar al-Assad.)
In April, a group of Trump administration officials — including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — visited Iraq to talk with Iraqi officials about the fight against ISIS
According to Airwars, a group of investigative journalists tracking airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, the U.S.-led coalition in the fight against ISIS dropped more munitions in March, nearly 4,000, than it has in any prior month since the campaign began in 2014.
Airwars also recorded the highest number of civilian deaths likely attributed to the U.S.-led coalition, at least 63.
"If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that’s really to what’s happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference," Trump said in his April 13 comments.