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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. troops still battling Islamic State fighters near MOAB blast

By Ken Hanly     Apr 20, 2017 in World
U.S. troops with their Afghan allies are still battling suspected Islamic State fighters in the area where the massive Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) was dropped last week in eastern Afghanistan, according to a U.S. military official.
The MOAB or GBU-43, Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb was dropped last Thursday from a US MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province on the border with Pakistan. The bombed tunnel-area deep in the mountains was apparently originally built with the help of the CIA to help the jihadists fighting the Soviet-backed Afghan regime.
A full week after U.S. forces dropped the 21,600-pound bomb, U.S. officials released little information about the strike. Security forces continue to block access to the site. Afghan officials have released body counts of from 36 to 96 over the last six days. These reports are not confirmed by U.S. officials as yet. An Afghan security source said that most of those killed were members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or the Laskar-e-Taliba also based in Pakistan. The Afghan news agency TOLO was also told that alongside many Pakistanis who were killed there were 12 Tajiks and 13 Indian nationals who had joined the Islmic State. The Hindustan Times reported an Afghan security official claimed that 13 IS commanders had been killed at least two from India. There is a lack of independent confirmation of these reports and officials in New Delhi and Kabul did not confirm them. The Amaq News Agency the IS media outlet claimed none of its fighters had been killed. The site is off limits to any independent reporting sources.
The use of the bomb has been condemned by former president Hamid Karzai and the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan. However, the present president claims the bombing was coordinated with Afghan officials. After having fought alongside Afghan forces, U.S. troops have since left but are continuing operations in the border area. U.S. military spokesperson Captain William Salvin said: "Access has been restricted but that's because it's a combat zone. We are in contact with the enemy." He said that he has high confidence that no civilians were killed. Even some Afghan officials are complaining they lack information about the effects of the bomb. One anonymous senior security official said: "We were and we are kept in the dark and still we haven’t been able to go to the site, We are confused ourselves and we wonder what MOAB could have caused." It may be that U.S. officials do not trust many Afghans and are concerned that the Taliban would be tipped off if too many knew. At a meeting of Afghan security council some members told president Ashraf Ghani that the lack of information played directly into the narrative of the IS that in radio broadcasts is claiming none of its members were killed. A recent Islamic State radio broadcast claimed: "We haven't suffered any casualties from this bomb, We are fighting for the sake of God, who is much stronger than this bomb." U.S. Captain Salvin would not comment on claims by Afghan officials that nearly 100 IS fighters were killed by the blast. Salvin said only that U.S. assessments were ongoing and it appeared that the strike collapsed many tunnels, destroyed mines, and "reduced" several nearby structures. He said US troops had used explosives to collapse other tunnel entrances not destroyed by the blast. Local had been warned that there would be operations in the area through drops of leaflets.
Several villages near the site had earlier been abandoned after fighting in the area increased between IS and US-backed Afghan forces. Khan Afzai a local policeman on patrol in a village less than a mile from the bomb site said: "There were daily bombings and fighting. Afghan forces used to fire artillery, bombs were dropped by foreign aircraft, and even Daesh (IS) fired rockets at us and at the villagers." Kate Clark a senior researcher at the Afghan Analysts network said: "The people who'd normally be talking have fled, and there have been very few reports from inside Islamic State territory. The jury's still out on many things with this strike." Some locals have suggested there may even have been prisoners in the complex but since IS first took over the complex in 2015 not much is known about what happens there. The IS fighters are battling not just the Afghan government forces supported by the US but also the rival main Taliban group.
The bombing is used to provide evidence of Trump's resolve to aggressively deal with America's enemies. It also is said to send a message to North Korea. However, it may have increased anti-U.S. feeling in Afghanistan. Many may feel that their country is being used simply as a testing ground for new U.S. weapons. It appears not to have hurt the IS all that much let alone done anything to stop the advance of the Taliban in some areas of Afghanistan. On the appended video, the gender of the bomb is changed to be the Father of All Bombs.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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