Decision to drop MOAB bomb was purely a product of the battlefield situation

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday April 14th, 2017

And the generals made the call without requiring Trump's approval.

That makes sense, of course. You don't want any president, but especially one with no military background, micromanaging the tactical decisions on the battlefield. If we'e got ISIS where we want them and we have a weapon at the ready that can take out not only a bunch of them, but a bunch of their infrastructure as well, why not?

Drop it. And that's exactly what prompted the military command to do so, without having to first check with the White House:

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said on Friday that the decision to deploy one of the largest conventional bombs ever used in combat was purely tactical, and made as part of the campaign against Islamic State-linked fighters.

As many as 36 suspected Islamic State militants were killed in the strike on Thursday evening in the eastern province of Nangarhar, Afghan defense officials said, adding there were no civilian casualties.

Amaq, the news agency affiliated with Islamic State in the Middle East, carried a statement denying that the group had suffered casualties in the attack, citing an unidentified source who had been in contact.

The statements could not be independently verified, and on Friday Afghan and foreign troops in the vicinity were not allowing reporters or locals to approach the scene of the blast.

The strike came as U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to dispatch his first high-level delegation to Kabul, amid uncertainty about his plans for the nearly 9,000 American troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Nicknamed "the mother of all bombs," the weapon was dropped from an MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar, bordering Pakistan.

Nicholson said he was in constant communication with officials in Washington, but the decision to use the 21,600-pound (9,797-kg) GBU-43 bomb was based on his assessment of military needs and not broader political considerations.

"This was the first time that we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress," he said of a joint Afghan-U.S. operation that has been targeting Islamic State since March.

"It was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield."

Afghan and U.S. forces were at the scene of the strike and reported that the "weapon achieved its intended purpose," Nicholson said.

Nicholson's comments leave the tactical and operational details somewhat vague, which is probably a smart thing. He doesn't tell us exactly what the obstacle was that argued for the use of the MOAB, but he makes it clear they didn't just decide to drop the mother of all bombs in order to make some sort of grand statement about America being back or Trump being a tough guy.

Trump wasn't even involved with the decisions to use the weapon. Having to check in with the White House on every tactical decision is not how you fight a war when your objective it to win. The Pentagon built and deployed the MOAB with the understanding it might be used on the field of battle, and if politicians had a problem with it, their chance to say so was before deployment, not at the moment when the generals looked at the tactical situation and decided its use made sense.

GDP growth for Obama's final year? A measly 1.6 percent

That said, it's only natural to wonder if the generals would have had such tactical freedom if Obama was still in office, or for that matter, if they did have that freedom when he was. I'm sure no one will confirm that major battlefield decisions had to be run by the Oval Office, but my guess would be that military commanders have a basic understanding of the parameters in which they can operate freely.

The use of the MOAB has been denounced by Hamid Karzai and a few others. Is that the sort of thing that wasn't allowed under Obama because he was concerned about political and regional sensitivities? Or did Karzai only complain because he thought Trump personally gave the order?

Either way, if the president is letting the military make solid tactical decisions based on good information from the field, then things are operating as they should. If victory is your concern, that's good news.

Speaking of the dropping of the MOAB, here it is:

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!