Military Wiki
2017 Nangarhar airstrike
Part of the War in Afghanistan
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Type Airstrike, MOAB strike
Location Achin District, Afghanistan
34°04′24.01″N 70°37′52.37″E / 34.0733361°N 70.6312139°E / 34.0733361; 70.6312139
Target Tunnels being used by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province
Date 13 April 2017 (2017-04-13)
7:32 PM (UTC+04:30)
Executed by United States United States Air Force
Casualties ~95+[1][2] killed

  Under control of the Afghan Government, NATO, and Allies
  Under control of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Allies
  Under control of the Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS, Daesh) and Allies

The 2017 Nangarhar airstrike refers to the American bombing of the Achin District[3] located in the Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan.[4] On 13 April 2017, the United States conducted an airstrike and used the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), with the goal of destroying tunnel complexes used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP or ISIS-K).[5][6][7]

The bomb was dropped from the rear cargo door of an United States Air Force Lockheed MC-130. On 15 April 2017, Afghan officials reported that 94 ISIS-Khorasan militants, including 4 commanders were killed in the strike.[1]


The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch in January 2015, which was the first time the group had officially spread outside the Arab world.[8] The bombing occurred days after the U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, was mortally wounded by small-arms fire in Nangarhar.[9]

A Pentagon spokesman stated that the bomb had been brought to Afghanistan "some time ago" to strike the ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar, located near the Pakistani border.[5] The bordering regions have been difficult to control as ISIS began developing on the Afghanistan side.[10] David Martin, CBS News national security correspondent, said that planning began during the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. Permission to use the MOAB was obtained by the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, although it was unclear how far up the chain of command his request traveled.[5]

Army Times reported that the airstrike was part of Operation Hamza-the Afghan and American operation to "flush" ISIS-K from its stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, engaging in regular ground battles.[11] Stars and Stripes reported that General Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said that for four weeks before the bombing, Afghan special forces unsuccessfully attempted to penetrate the area because of the difficult terrain and improvised explosive device (IEDs) planted by ISIS-KP militants.[1]

The strike aimed to destroy tunnels being used by ISIL-KP in the Nangarhar Province,[5] which the CIA originally created for Mujahideen fighters in the 1980s.[12][13]


A photo of a MOAB weapon in preparation for its testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Center.

The GBU-43/B MOAB is a 9,800 kg (21,600 lbs), GPS-guided bomb, the most powerful conventional bomb in the US military's arsenal, first tested in March 2003, just days before the start of the Iraq war[14] and is an evolutionary follow-up to the 6,800 kg BLU-82 "Daisy Cutters".

The MOAB is not a penetrator weapon and is primarily intended for soft to medium surface targets covering extended areas and targets in a contained environment such as a deep canyon or within a cave system.[15] The U.S. military has targeted similar complexes and dropped tens of thousands of bombs in Afghanistan. According to Barbara Starr, it is a "weapon that would be used against a large footprint on the ground."[10]


Aerial footage of the MOAB striking Achin District, Afghanistan.

The blast detonated at 7:32pm local time in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, according to the U.S. military.[16]

It was reported by The Guardian that "a local security official said they had requested a large strike because fighter jets and drones had failed to destroy the tunnel complex". Also, according to the district chief of Achin, Ismail Shinwari, "the strike was closely coordinated with Afghan soldiers and special forces, and tribal elders had been informed to evacuate civilians.[3]


The Guardian reported that following the strike, US and Afghan forces conducted clearing operations and airstrikes in the area and assessed the damage.[17]

Casualty figures were initially reported as 36[16] but increased over the following days as reconnaissance units investigated the site. On 14 April, a local government spokesman and police commander told Afghan media that 82 militants had been killed.[18] Achin District governor Esmail Shinwari told AFP that at least 92 ISIL fighters were killed in the bombing.[19] On 15 April 2017, Stars and Stripes reported that 94 ISIS-K militants, including 4 commanders were killed in the strike.[1] On 18 April 2017, one senior Afghan security official said the bomb killed 96 Islamic State militants, among them 13 major commanders.[2]

According to the Afghan defence ministry,[14] fighters supposedly loyal to "ISIS Khorasan Province" were among those killed in the attack. Presidential spokesman Shah Hussain Murtazawi told Media that IS commander Siddiq Yar was among those killed. According to Murtazawi, the fighters in the tunnels were active in the border regions and were persecuting people in the local area.[20] Afghan officials confirmed that foreign militants, including 13 Indians, were also killed in the bombing.[21][22] The Ministry spokesman also stated that no civilians were killed.[23] The ISIS-supporting Amaq News Agency issued a statement denying that any ISIS casualties resulted from the airstrike.[24]

No immediate reports of civilian casualties were available; however as of 14 April local authorities said the fighting had prevented them from visiting the bomb site near the village of Shodal near the Pakistani border.[23][25][26] A local parliamentarian, Esmatullah Shinwari, said that locals had told him that one teacher and his young son had been killed.[3][16] Buildings in the settlement of Shaddle Bazar, 1.5 miles away, suffered damage from the blast.[16]

Stars and Stripes reported that General Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said that since the strike, the offensive operation in the area was resumed.[1] A BBC reporter confirmed this on 27 April 2017, and reported that an Afghan officer had said there were hundreds of similar caves in the area. The Afghan officer also said that trees 100 metres from the impact point had remained standing.[27]


Aftermath of MOAB Strike in Nangarhar Province, United States Department of Defense.

On 27 April, two US Special Operations personnel[28] were killed fighting Islamic State in Nangarhar region near where the MOAB was dropped.[29][30] A third U.S. service member was wounded in the fight.



Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, said the strike was "designed to support the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)" and "precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties",[31] and Afghanistan's chief executive, Dr. Abdullah, similarly said the bombing was conducted in coordination with Afghan forces and that the Afghan government "took great care to avoid civilian harm."[25]

However, Afghanistan's former president Hamid Karzai condemned the attacks in a series of tweets saying "This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons."[5]

The Afghan ambassador to Pakistan in Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal, echoed this sentiment stating that the airstrike was "reprehensible and counterproductive."[3] The mayor of Achin, Naweed Shinwari said, "There is no doubt that ISIS are brutal and that they have committed atrocities against our people. But I don’t see why the bomb was dropped."[3]

United States

United States President Donald Trump did not say whether he specifically authorized the use of the MOAB, simply remarking he has given the military "total authorization"[32] and praising the US military as the greatest in the world: "We have given them total authorization and that's what they’re doing and frankly that's why they've been so successful lately".[33] Deputy assistant to the President of the United States, Sebastian Gorka, in an interview said that the local commander overseeing operations in the Achin district was able to make the choice to use the MOAB on his own authority.[34] John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and the Resolute Support Mission, said in a statement that, "As Isis-K’s losses have mounted, they are using IEDs, bunkers and tunnels to thicken their defense. This is the right munition to reduce these obstacles and maintain the momentum of our offensive against Isis-K."[16] Multiple politicians have shown support for Trump's use of the MOAB; including Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, Jim Inhofe and Pat Buchanan.[35][36][37]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Afghan official: Death toll from massive US bomb rises to 94, including 4 ISIS commanders". Stars and Stripes. 15 April 2017. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mashal, Mujib (18 April 2017). "U.S. Isn’t Saying How Much Damage ‘Mother of All Bombs’ Did in Afghanistan". The New York Times. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Rasmussen, Sune Engel (14 April 2017). "'It felt like the heavens were falling': Afghans reel from MOAB impact". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  4. "Drone footage shows MOAB drop in Afghanistan". USA Today. 14 April 2017. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "U.S. drops 'mother of all bombs' in Afghanistan, marking weapon's first use". CBS News. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  6. Tomlinson, Lucas (13 April 2017). "US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan after Green Beret killed". Fox News. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  7. Starr, Barbara; Browne, Ryan. "US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan". CNN. Retrieved 13 April 2017. 
  8. "MOAB strike: US military defends use of massive bomb in Afghanistan". BBC. 14 April 2017. 
  9. Gibbons-Neff, Thomas (10 April 2017). "Pentagon identifies U.S. Special Forces soldier killed fighting the Islamic State in Afghanistan". The Washington Post. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Woody, Christopher (14 April 2017). "The US just dropped the 'mother of all bombs' on an ISIS target in Afghanistan". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  11. "Army Rangers killed in Afghanistan were possible victims of friendly fire". Army Times. 28 April 2017. 
  12. Weaver, Mary Anne (2005-09-11). "Lost at Tora Bora". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. 
  13. Robertson, Nic (14 April 2017). "MOAB hit caves used by ISIS, drug smugglers and Osama bin Laden". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 US drops 'mother of all bombs' on ISIL in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera, 13 April 2017
  15. Insinna, Valerie (2017). "What you need to know about the 'Mother of All Bombs'". Defense News. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 Ackerman, Spencer; Rasmussen, Sune Engel (14 April 2017). "36 Isis militants killed in US 'mother of all bombs' attack, Afghan ministry says". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  17. "US 'mother of all bombs' killed 92 Isis militants, say Afghan officials". the Guardian. 15 April 2017. 
  18. Mashal, Mujib (14 April 2017). "'Mother of All Bombs' Killed Dozens of Militants, Afghan Officials Say". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  19. "IS death toll hits 90 from huge US bomb in Afghanistan". Times Live. 15 April 2017. 
  20. Allen, Nick; Horton, Helena (14 April 2017). "Caught on video, the moment the US drops 'mother of all bombs' on 36 Isil militants". Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  21. Saifullah, Masood (19 April 2017). "How active are Indian jihadists in Afghanistan?". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  22. "13 suspected Indian IS fighters killed as MOAB hit Afghanistan: Reports". Hindustan Times. 18 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Griffiths, James; Starr, Barbara; Dewan, Angela (14 April 2017). "US defends dropping 'mother of all bombs'". CNN. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  24. "MOAB strike: US bombing of IS in Afghanistan 'killed dozens'". BBC. 14 April 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Faizy, Sultan; Bengali, Shashank (14 April 2017). "Afghanistan says 36 militants killed after U.S. drops 'mother of all bombs' against Islamic State". Los Angeles Times. 
  26. "MOAB strike: US bombing of IS in Afghanistan 'killed dozens'". 14 April 2017. 
  27. Atrafi, Auliya (27 April 2017). "The Mother of All Bombs: How badly did it hurt IS in Afghanistan?". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2017. 
  28. 2 U.S. Special Operations Forces Soldiers Killed Fighting Isis in Afghanistan
  29. 2 US soldiers killed in Afghanistan near where 'mother of all bombs' used
  30. Two US troops were killed and one was wounded while fighting the militant Islamic State group in Afghanistan, the US military said Thursday, near where Washington this month dropped the "Mother of All Bombs". US Forces-Afghanistan said the troops "came under attack during a raid against insurgents in Nangarhar province" late Wednesday.
  31. D’Angelo, Bob (14 April 2017). "Afghan official: 36 ISIS fighters killed by ‘MOAB’". Retrieved 14 April 2017. 
  32. Watson, Kathryn (13 April 2017). "Trump, Spicer won't say if president specifically authorized "mother of all bombs"". CBS News. 
  33. Leo Shane III (13 April 2017). "Trump: I'm giving the military "total authorization"". Military Times. 
  34. MSNBC (2017-07-11). "Sebastian Gorka On Donald Trump Jr. Controversy: 'Massive Nothing Burger' | MSNBC". Retrieved 2017-07-21. 
  35. Giaritelli, Anna (April 6, 2017). "Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi endorse Trump's attack in Syria". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  36. Herb, Jeremy (April 13, 2017). "Republicans praise bombing of ISIS targets". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  37. Cosby, Rita (April 14, 2017). "Pat Buchanan: Applauds ‘MOAB’ as warning to North Korea". Retrieved April 19, 2017. 

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