The title of this post is not figurative.
What’s going on?
It emerged today that, this past Tuesday evening, an MC-130 aircraft dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb over the Achin district in Afghanistan. This bomb is the largest conventional (non-nuclear) bomb in the US arsenal (known as the “mother of all bombs”) and had, up until now, never been used in the field. The target? A network of ISIS tunnels beneath the surface, as well as personnel on the ground.
As yet unknown is how many people were killed and whether the strike was successful in destroying the tunnels and killing ISIS fighters.
Why is it important?
This is more difficult to untangle. A “first” like this is troubling because, in the world of international relations, surprises are bad. People like stability and predictability. We’d never used this bomb before, and the fact that we now have suggests that Trump might be willing to break other norms in terms of US military actions. Trump has, of course, been all about violating norms since he first announced his candidacy. The real worry is that he might choose to escalate to nuclear weapons, at which point the very survival of civilization as we know it is at stake.
As for the area that was bombed: it is populated entirely by Pashtun tribes, which is the group from which the Taliban emerged in the 1990s. Achin has served as the headquarters of ISIS in Afghanistan for at least a year. We don’t yet know the full scope of the damage, though if it was dropped anywhere near a populated area, the death toll could be very high–even in the thousands.
This escalation of military conflict in Afghanistan could lead to much worse, to say nothing of the possible death toll from this strike alone.
What can I do?
Frankly, probably nothing that would be legal for me to suggest. At least not in the short term. It’s not as if Democrats are much better when it comes to bombing other countries and killing civilians, they just tend to be a bit more discreet about it.
The best advice is probably to prepare for the worst. Have an emergency plan in the event things heat up. Protect yourself and your family. Be safe.