White House officials said Thursday that the U.S. had to destroy any safe harbor claimed by the Islamic State, and that the use of the MOAB bomb in eastern Afghanistan was aimed at doing just that.
“At around 7:00 p.m. local time in Afghanistan last night, the United States military used a GBU-43 weapon in Afghanistan,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “The GBU-43 is a large, powerful and accurately delivered weapon. We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisors and Afghan forces in the area.
“The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously, and in order to defeat the group, we must deny them operational space, which we did,” Spicer continued. “The United States took all precautions necessary to prevent civilian casualties and collateral damage as a result of the operation.”
Early reports indicate that the bomb killed 36 ISIS fighters, but little else is known about the success of the blast. Administration officials from the White House to the Pentagon have downplayed the use of the MOAB, but anything that has a nickname like “Mother of All Bombs” is invariably going to get the TV tongues a-wagging, especially coming on the heels of the Syrian missile strike as it did. Still, the generals have said there was no message behind the bomb – that it was simply the right tool for the right job.
Perhaps what was more interesting was President Trump’s response to reporters. Asked if he authorized the use of the bomb, Trump essentially told reporters that he wasn’t getting involved in the minutia of battle plans – that he has given the military his “total authorization.”
That’s a philosophy in stark contrast with his predecessor. Obama, despite having no military background himself, came to be seen as an obnoxious micromanager as commander-in-chief. Trump may have SAID he knew more than the generals on the campaign trail, but Obama walked the walk. And there’s no question that his bad decisions, combined with the confrontational handcuffs he put on the U.S. military, contributed to the growth of ISIS.
There’s a reason Trump didn’t get too specific about his plans to defeat ISIS, and it’s only partly because he wanted to play his cards close to the vest. More broadly, he understood that a real estate tycoon in Manhattan doesn’t have any business telling the military how to fight a war. Obama should have understood that a couple of years as a junior senator didn’t qualify him to do it, either.
Trump, like Bush, is the “decider.” And when it comes to blasting a hole in a network of ISIS tunnels, he doesn’t even need to be involved. Our generals know the objective. They’ve known for a long time.
Only now, they finally have the freedom to achieve it.