BY GABBY RAYMOND ’20
On Thursday, April 13, the United States Air Force dropped “the mother of all bombs” on the Achin district of Nangarhar, a province close to the Pakistani border of Afghanistan. The Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb was used to specifically target a channel of tunnels that ISIS members had been supposedly using to cross in and out of Pakistan. According to the Guardian, the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command argued that wiping out the tunnels reduced the number of improvised explosive devices that could possibly be used against U.S. troops. Furthermore, it would also damage the ISIS offshoot that is allegedly responsible for recent terrorist attacks in the area. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan said in a press conference in Kabul that “it was the right time to use it tactically against the right target on the battlefield, and it has enabled us to resume our offensive operations.”
The bomb exploded in the air over the area, and the resulting shock waves caused the tunnels to overpressurize and collapse. According to an Afghan government official interviewed by the Guardian, approximately 92 militants were killed by the bombing. Press secretary Sean Spicer stated, “the US took all steps to avoid civilian deaths and collateral damage.” However, Malik Kamin, a tribal elder present told the New York Times that there were civilians in the area who were killed when the bomb dropped. He also said that shrapnel and debris landed as far as 2 miles from the drop zone and destroyed or damaged many people’s houses.
On the Intercept podcast, Glen Greenwald said “while the number of civilian deaths has increased, the number of airstrikes has been lower so far this month, strongly suggesting that the U.S. military has become even more reckless about civilian deaths under Trump than it was under Obama.”
Many in the Mount Holyoke community are concerned about the implications of the bombing. Farah Nabil, ‘17, an international student from Lebanon said that as a student “coming from a war-torn country that was left with internal trauma from Western imperialism, I am worried about the situation, but I am especially worried about the 95,000 human beings living in the area where the MOAB was dropped, and the media is falsely reporting that it only hit ISIS.” There are very few media sites that are reporting on the civilian casualties, most have focused instead on the size and caliber of the bomb. Nabil said, “in the [Mount Holyoke] community people are talking about how fascinated they were by the size of the bomb, as if decades of bombardment in Afghanistan weren’t enough.”
The bombing in Afghanistan was preceded by the U.S. administration’s launch of 59 cruise missiles at a government-controlled airbase in Syria. The U.S. missile strike was in retaliation to a chemical-weapons attack on a rebel-held town in Syria which resulted in the deaths of at least 86 civilians, as reported by Al Jazeera.
Last month, in his preliminary budget blueprint, President Trump announced that he planned to broadly increase military spending, which would include increasing the Department of Defense’s budget by 2 billion over the next 5 years, according to CNN. Fortune reports that when the US launched the Tomahawk missiles on Syria, the collective stock of missile manufacturers in the US increased by five billion dollars. While investment in the military appears to bring an economic boost, it might not be the best way to handle conflict in the Middle East. “The Middle East is the most vulnerable region to starting a war right now with western powers, and as long as there is a party benefitting from the military economy and war, there will always be a way to ignite it,” said Nabil.