The April 13 strike by US forces in eastern Afghanistan saw the first deployment of the MOAB, the Mother of All Bombs, in a combat situation, dropped against ISIS forces in tunnels. The 22,000 lb pound was much vaunted for its huge size, the biggest non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal, and presented as a “message” to other nations.
The reality, not so much. Locals report that the MOAB did way less damage than you’d think, noting that there were green trees still standing 100 meters from the center of the blast, with no sign of damage, and that the tunnels the ISIS fighters were within appear all but untouched.
While there was already considerable doubt about the Afghan government’s claims of 96 ISIS having been killed, particularly in the absence of any evidence, locals expressed doubts that the strike had killed anyone at all. There certainly were no deaths on the surface, and with the tunnels intact, the Pentagon’s decision to rule out checking on the death toll may have been deliberate to avoid this reality.
Indeed, the US appears to have been fully aware that the bomb didn’t accomplish anything, and locals say other airstrikes have been happening in the weeks that followed, while ground troops end up trying to root out ISIS forces, exactly as they would’ve had to if the MOAB wasn’t dropped in the first place.
Many residents aren’t too happy about this, saying they believe the US use of the MOAB strike near their homes makes them “pawns” in a false narrative about how well the fight against ISIS is going, even as that fight continues on.
On top of that, a lot of the bodies turning up aren’t ISIS fighters at all, but members of a local “people’s uprising” that are willing to help fight against ISIS, and are really hoping to see ISIS expelled from Nangarhar. That ISIS has been announced expelled multiple times already means many aren’t getting their hopes up, however.