Trump Let General Opt to Use 'Mother of All Bombs'
Dropping the 11-ton "mother of all bombs" in Afghanistan was another indication that President Donald Trump has delegated more authority to field commanders in the conduct of operations against enemies worldwide.
Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, skirted questions Friday on whether he acted alone on the use of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, bomb but said he had recently been granted more "latitude" in the tactical employment of weapons.
At a Kabul news conference with Afghan officials, Nicholson said he was in constant communication with officials in Washington before the bomb was dropped but the decision to use the GBU-43 was based on his assessment of military necessity.
"This was the right weapon against the right target," Nicholson said of the action Thursday against a tunnel and cave complex of the ISIS offshoot called the Islamic State-Khorasan Province in the mountains of the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border.
"It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield," Nicholson said of the attack, which Afghan officials said killed dozens of militants and didn't cause any civilian casualties.
The bombing followed on the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile strike last week in Syria in response to a chemical attack blamed on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and the stepped up air campaigns and troop deployments to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
At the White House Thursday, Trump's remarks on the use of the bomb suggested at he had given commanders greater leeway to take action without first seeking White House approval.
Trump called the bombing "another very, very successful mission."
When asked how it came about, Trump said, "What I do is I authorize my military" to take action they deem necessary.
"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 and frankly that's why they've been so successful lately," he said.
The action against the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, which has claimed responsibility for recent terror attacks in Kabul, drew a mixed reaction in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani praised the attack that he said killed militants but former President Hamid Karzai, who often clashed with U.S. officials in his long tenure, condemned the action.
In a series of Twitter posts, Karzai said, "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 U.S.A.".
The bombing came ahead of the arrival in Afghanistan next week of the first high-level Trump administration delegation to visit Afghanistan led by Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the White House National Security Adviser, to assess the progress of the war against the Taliban.
McMaster was expected to confer on Nicholson's repeated requests for a "few thousand" more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Currently, the U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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