WASHINGTON: There’s a lot we don’t know about MOAB, the bomb originally designed to terrify and obliterate Iraqi troops and used in combat for the first time today in Afghanistan.
We know that it is guided by GPS. We know that it’s very big — 27,100 pounds or so — and works well against caves and tunnels. MOAB is the largest non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal and usually gets deployed from a C-130. It looks as if today’s use was directed against a Daesh tunnel complex in Afghanistan.
Some analysts are saying today’s use may have been designed as a big fat signal to North Korea, which is reportedly ready to either test another nuclear or launch missiles armed with sarin gas on the eve of a major North Korean holiday, Day of the Sun, birthday of North Korean dictator and founder Kim Il Sung. Message to his grandson: behave badly, oh pudgy leader, and the United States has tools that can penetrate exactly the sort of tunnel complexes North Korea has long relied on to protect senior leaders and hide its weapons. The North Korea theory gets a bit thinner if the Pentagon statement the strike was in the planning for “months” is true, but timing in such things can be everything.
At the same time, earlier today a senior administration said this to FoxBusiness Network:
“We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures in response to the North Korean regime’s continued provocations. North Korea must understand that the only path to a secure, economically-prosperous future is to abandon its development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction.”
But MOAB may have just been meant to kill a concentration of Daesh followers in Achin District of Nangarhar Province, as several Pentagon officials say. It’s quite rare for a president to comment on the use of a single weapon, but MOAB has attracted enormous interest ever since the Air Force Research Laboratory developed it.
President Trump spoke about MOAB at the White House today. He dodged the question of whether he personally authorized its use, saying “what I do is I authorize our military.” It sounded as if he’s granted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis close to carte blanche to wage war against Daesh and its friends, but you never know with the Donald right away, do you?