Here’s your Situation Update for February 26, 2018


Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover small wars, but big things can come in small packages.

The weather forecast this morning is clear with a 30% chance of reflexively calling someone you don’t like at work a Russian bot. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” said the United Nations General Secretary referring to the cease-fire in Syria. Adopted over the weekend, the 30-day ceasefire was drafted in response to the relentless campaign by Syrian government forces on a suburb of Damascus that has killed hundreds, targeted protected civilians, and possibly used chemical weapons. Unfortunately, the cease-fire has yet to have any effect, as Syrian government forces continue to attack eastern Ghouta under the pretense of attacking Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a militant group that is effectively a rebranded al-Qaida.

“The patriarchy really is over,” joked a Kurdish woman in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria in this article about how Marxist theory from an imprisoned terrorist in Turkey has revolutionized the power women have in Kurdish society. But as Kurdish militias like the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its female counterpart, the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) liberate majority Arab towns from Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh), these Arab areas, traditionally male-dominated and conservative, also get Kurdish-created feminist governments. One Arab resident of Manbij told the New York Times, “To understand the current situation, think of ISIS, but at the other end of the spectrum.” He’s making a point about radicalism, but “the opposite of ISIS” seems like pretty high praise to me.

Three Taliban attacks in southern Afghanistan killed 20 Afghan soldiers on Saturday. In one attack, Taliban fighters used an American Humvee as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), packing it explosives and detonating it. During the attacks the Taliban fighters stole another American Humvee and captured “a lot of light and heavy weapons.”

Russian state media tried to pass off a video game as footage from Syria in a bizarre example of Russian disinformation in the news. This would be like Fox News showing footage of Call of Duty and saying it was from heroic action in Iraq. We praise the Russians for being good at disinformation, but they do so much of it that maybe it’s just the successes that get attention while these obvious failures slide under the radar.

Turkey occupied a portion of Syria’s Afrin province that it shares a border with. The campaign to enter Afrin has met resistance both from the YPG that Turkey is attempting to destroy and pro-Assad militias sent to assist the YPG in repelling Turkey. The Turkish army said the operation meant it was ready for a “new battle” and deployed special forces units to the area.

Missing Nigeria girls now number 110 after a Boko Haram attack last week. Previous reports said 75 girls were missing and that they had all been rescued.

Plan to truck oil from Northern Iraq to Iranian refineries delayed due to security concerns. Iraq recently launched an offensive to clear the area of militants, but now Iran is concerned it cannot guarantee the trucks will not have explosives on them.

Questions still linger over an American airstrike in Iraq that occurred in January in Anbar province. The town was not under IS control and it struck the police chief and other security forces as they investigated where a raid was conducted by U.S. forces and Iraqi Army. The locals do not understand why their police chief was target and the U.S. is mum on the reason for the strike. One theory is a local used the American air power to solve a personal problem.

Despite over a decade of supporting the troops, women veterans don’t feel supported says a woman veteran in this op-ed for The Atlantic. According to the piece, 74% of women veterans don’t feel supported by the general public.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. Existential questions must be pondered silently. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 27th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 21, 2018

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings (except when it doesn’t, like yesterday). The scope of these posts will cover small wars with big budgets.

The weather forecast this morning is freezing with a 40% chance of a disappointment over things you can’t control. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Syrian government is killing people by the hundreds in a Damascus suburb including women, children, and aid workers. The Syrian government has vowed “no quarter” in the rebel-held area. Civilians were never allowed to evacuate. The Syrian government is targeting civilian populations and hospitals. One video uploaded to Twitter showed a now common “double tap” tactic, where an air strike is followed by a second after rescue workers respond to the scene.

The Taliban overran three checkpoints in Western Afghanistan killing 20 police officers. The fighters were wearing night vision goggles. This is the second attack in the area by Taliban fighters wearing night vision devices. The police officers do not have night vision devices themselves. This tactical advantage was once enjoyed by American forces over its enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The goggles are of Russian origin.

Turkey and Iran-backed pro-Assad forces clashed in Northern Syria in a new twist in the competition between regional powers waging war there. Keeping the alliances and conflicts straight between the Syrian government, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf States, and the rebel militias has never been easy, but alliances are being strained as the interests of regional powers compete.

Two French soldiers were killed and a colonel injured by fighters in Mali. The French military has been operating there since 2013, when it intervened to stop Islamic fighters from overthrowing the government.

More than 90 schoolgirls in Nigeria are missing after a Boko Haram attack. “I saw girls crying and wailing in three Tata vehicles and they were crying for help,” said a witness. This is the largest abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram since 270 went missing in 2014, sparking the #bringbackourgirls social media movement amplified by First Lady Michelle Obama.

So we fixed the glitch. The latest Pentagon budget does not including salaries for Iraqi Kurdish militias. The fighters, collectively known as the Peshmerga and long-time U.S. allies, stopped receiving salaries from the U.S. government when the Kurdistan Regional Government held an independence referendum against American wishes in September. The latest budget hints the temporary halt in payments may be permanent.

Islamic State fighters from Iraq and Syria are relocating to the Philippines. The fighters are joining rebel groups already operating in the country’s south.

A U.S. air strike killed three al Shabaab fighters in Somalia said a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, adding that no civilians were killed in the attack.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers have their own value that is completely independent from outside perception, just like you. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Thursday, February 22th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 19th, 2018

M777 A2 Howitzer fire mission

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings (except when it doesn’t, like last Friday). The scope of these posts will cover small wars, full hearts, can’t lose.

The weather forecast this morning is unseasonably warm with a 60% chance of media-induced cognitive dissonance. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“A front against Israel where there is no war but also no peace,” writes the New York Times in a piece about the Iranian presence in Syria. While Iran deployed its own military and facilitated the organization of foreign militias to fight for Assad in the Syrian Civil War, Western think tanks see the potential for a permanent presence to counter Israel in the region, similar to the model it used with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such a model has sparked multiple Israeli invasions of Lebanon. Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech brandishing a piece of an Iranian drone, threatening war.

A gunman attacked a church in Russia and Islamic State claimed responsibility. Countering violent extremism has become a discipline of study and an industry of its own, but this quote highlights why it is important to learn the basics: “Churchgoers said they had prevented more casualties by closing the door to the church and stopping the attacker from getting inside.”

Four U.S. soldiers died in Niger in October and the New York Times wrote a staggering account of their last moments with a visual aid detailing their last steps. It’s heartbreaking.

In Kabul, suicide attacks occur monthly. Street cleaners have to deal with the aftermath. “We found hands, feet — even a head. I couldn’t eat for the next two days. I was horrified,” says one.

Damascus suburb endures death and misery as it has for years and will continue to as long as outside powers decide to continue the war in Syria. Regional powers focus on more strategically important places while residents wonder what their children will eat and if there will be a tomorrow.

Three Iranian police were killed in Tehran in protests by Sufi Muslims against the government. A bus drove into a formation of Iranian riot police. The protests were in support of jailed Sufi leaders.

Turkey adds the Syrian government to its list of potential enemies having already threatened the United States in its campaign against the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria. Turkey threatening the Assad regime would have been good news to the U.S. and rebel forces in 2012, but today it just adds another violent dimension to a brutal conflict that shows no signs of ending.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are having a great, but very reflective, President’s Day. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 20th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 15th, 2018

Exercise Sea Soldier '17: US-Oman MOUT Training

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover unconventional warfare around the globe (conventional warfare is just so basic).

The weather forecast this morning is warm with a 90% chance of hopes and prayers from lawmakers. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

You can come back to concentration camps the Myanmar government says to the Rohingya. The ethnic minority that fled Myanmar to Bangladesh after harsh government reprisals to insurgent attacks caused over 7,000 to flee wants to return home. Many of their villages were burned to the ground, so the Myanmar government has built what Human Rights Watch calls “open-air prisons” and the government calls “refugee camps.”

Over 10,000 Afghan civilians killed or injured in 2017 says the United Nations. Anti-government forces like the Taliban and Islamic State are deliberating targeting civilians in complex ambushes. However, casualties are also attributed to American airstrikes which have increased under the Trump Administration.

Tillerson acknowledges Hezbollah as “part of the political process in Lebanon” at a news conference in Beirut. Most of his speech was boilerplate denunciation of Hezbollah and Iran, but the statement is significant as it tacitly recognizes Hezbollah as a political organization, despite their presence on the State Department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations. Realistically, it just means Tillerson can’t stay on message and is out of his depth.

Pakistan doesn’t want to be on the terrorism financier list so it has launched a crackdown against the jihadist group responsible for 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. It only took 10 years and a major threat from the international community.

Russia admits five civilians killed in U.S. attack in Syria last week. Russian media reported rumors of dozens if not hundreds of Russian contractor deaths, but Russia denied the claims at first. Acknowledging civilians were killed is not admitting Russia is using private military contractors, but it’s closer than saying nothing.

53 Islamist militants killed in the Sinai says the Egyptian military. The offensive began last week in response to an attack on a mosque that killed over 350 people.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are busy crypto mining. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Friday, February 16th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 14th, 2018

Manning the gun

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover unconventional warfare around the globe (nobody does conventional warfare anymore — it’s too popular).

The weather forecast this morning is dry with a 70% chance of media-induced feelings of inadequacy. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

United States to add Pakistan to terror financing list according to a senior Pakistan official. The U.S. will likely introduce a motion next week when the Financial Action Task Force meets in Paris. This move comes after the U.S. suspended $1.3 billion in aid to Pakistan last month.

But the U.S. admitted to financing terrorism itself, in effect, when the Director of National Intelligence stated American allies, the YPG, were “the Syrian militia of the Kurdistan Workers Party.” The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, is officially listed as a Foreign Terror Organization by the State Department. The Turkish government has long claimed the YPG were part of the PKK, but the YPG and the U.S. has denied these claims.

Whose problem are British Islamic State fighters is something that Britain and the U.S. do not agree about. The British government thinks the fighters are now Iraq or Syria or somebody else’s problem, while the U.S. thinks those fighters should stand trial in Britain, and if the not there, then at least go to Guantanamo.

Iran asks U.S. to leave Syria, defending its own military presence there as legitimate as it was invited by the Syrian government. Iran now joins Syrian rebels and Turkey in calling for a U.S. withdrawal. In response, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanded Iran-backed militias out of Syria. He also asked the same in Iraq in October, but so far they have not complied.

The Taliban reaches out to Americans directly in a 16,000 word letter sent to the media. “Prolonging the war in Afghanistan and maintaining American troop presence is neither beneficial for America nor for anyone else,” they say. True enough, but the Taliban doesn’t understand that the American people, by and large, just don’t give a shit.

Former Bush Administration official to be new Syria envoy in the latest example of nothing matters and time is a flat circle. Mr. Hannah served as Dick Cheney’s deputy national security adviser for the Middle East and later as his national security adviser.

An Afghan Shiite militia helped defeat Islamic State in Syria and a new piece in War on the Rocks examines what their next move may be. The militia is supported by Iran and many of the Afghan militiamen’s families live in Iran, but the many of the seasoned combat veterans have been fighting for years and they may prove useful to Iran elsewhere.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers were given up for Lent. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Thursday, February 15th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 8th, 2018


Australian Defense Force photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover the globe’s various conflicts (a narrow topic, I know).

The weather forecast this morning is sunny with a 30% chance of shutdown. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Try and make us leave is what the publicity tour of Manbij, Syria by two U.S. generals seemed to say. In Tuesday’s Situation Update I wrote that Turkey’s President Erdogan told U.S. officials “Why don’t you just go?” In response, Maj. Gen. Jamie Jerrard told press while standing next to an armored truck with an oversized American flag flying from it, “We’re very proud of our positions here, and we want to make sure everybody knows it.”

Later, U.S. struck pro-Assad forces after coming under attack in Deir ez-Zor, a Kurdish stronghold near the Euphrates River in Western Syria. This marks the third known time U.S. forces attacked Syrian government or pro-Assad forces.

The U.S. policy in Syria is to keep it weak, divided, and poor says Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, Joshua Landis. Landis is known as one of the U.S.’s top Syria experts. Landis claims this foreign policy hurts U.S. enemies, Iran and Russia, and helps its allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Duterte’s drug war may be war crimes or why would the International Criminal Court open an investigation? The complaint against the Phillipean president includes “extrajudicial killings that dated back to the late 1980s.”

Over 300 child soldiers freed in South Sudan in a rare bit of good news from the five-year conflict there. Over a quarter of the child soldiers were girls and the effort was led by the United Nations. According to the New York Times, “The United Nations has helped win the release of almost 2,000 child soldiers in the past few years. More than 10 percent of them have been younger than 13.”

A Brussels neighborhood tries to overcome its terrorist legacy by both increasing policing and improving opportunities for its foreign, Muslim residents. The neighborhood, Molenbeek, is infamous for being where the terrorists who killed over a hundred people in Paris and dozens more in Belgium.

Increased air strikes in Afghanistan but no hope for an end to the stalemate, says International Crisis Group. “Both sides are unleashing more violence based on the same rationale that it would tilt this stalemate to favor their conditions at the table.”

Libyan commander wanted by ICC turned himself in two days ago to Russian-supported forces in Libya, but was immediately freed. It’s the thought that counts?

Turkey to host a summit with Russia and Iran highlighting a shift away from the U.S. and NATO.

Syrian strikes continue near Damascus killing 21 and injuring over 100.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section but answers will be given through FOIA request only. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Friday, February 9th, 2018.

Year in review: 2017’s most read articles


Department of Defense photo

Look, I don’t know how else to say this: it’s been a hell of a year. The news cycle moves so fast that in the time it takes to research, write, reflect, edit, and publish, it’s already yesterday’s news. And in 2017, yesterday’s news might as well be last year’s news.

In a country where people are worried about what bad thing could happen to them next, it’s been difficult to write about what’s happening on distant battlefields or in the abstract within the national security apparatus.

So, I want to thank you, the reader. Your views, shares, and comments are sincerely appreciated. Thank you for suffering through dystopia fatigue and supporting Insurgentsia this year.

Thank you to my readers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Australia. After the United States, you were my top countries for readership. I appreciate you taking the time to read yet another American perspective.

I also want to thank photographer Amber Clay. I used many of her striking photos in my articles this year. You can find more of her work here.

I look forward to continuing to cover political violence, terrorism, and small wars for you in the new year. And in 2018, I want to hear more from you. Send me your ideas for submissions here.

In case you missed it, here are 2017’s most popular articles:


The Google Memo and its Implications on National Security

In August, an internal memo at Google written by a misogynist software developer went viral. Unfortunately, his sexist ideas aren’t only limited to Silicon Valley, they’re also present in defense circles.

Trump Announces Afghanistan War Strategy, No One Gives a Shit

In August, President Donald Trump announced his new Afghanistan strategy, but no one gave a shit. Distancing himself from the war under Obama, Trump proclaimed additional troops and no timelines, but no one gave a shit.


Why Trump Supporters Think #covfefe is a Secret Message to Terrorists

In June, Trump’s fat fingers caused his undereducated supporters to study Arabic for the first time in their lives. The results were predictably hilarious and disastrous.


Trump’s War in Syria: What You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

In April, Trump launched some cruise missiles at Syria and it made people wonder whether we were going to start a war there. Boy, were they in for a surprise.


The MOAB and a Brief History of Bombing Afghanistan

In April, a big bomb was dropped in Afghanistan. Future historians will likely know it as the only bomb dropped in Afghanistan that Americans ever cared about in the decades-long war.

Nobody Wants Erik Prince’s Contractors Running Afghanistan


Blackwater employees in a firefight in Iraq

After almost 16 years of continuous war, recent redoubling efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the overall expansion of the once-named “Global War on Terror”, sometimes it feels like Americans have learned nothing in the last decade and a half.

But if there is one thing they have apparently learned, it is that they do not want Blackwater founder Erik Prince running Afghanistan.

The New York Times published an op-ed by Prince on Wednesday in which he predictably argues that contractors are the solution in Afghanistan. His plan, rejected by President Trump after asking for private business solutions in Afghanistan, involves removing all conventional troops and the contractors that support them.

Instead, Prince proposes 2,000 special operations forces and 6,000 contractors. The contractors would among other things, patrol with Afghan forces. Contractors that fight in wars are also known as mercenaries.

But it turns out it is not just Trump who is not having it from Prince. Many Twitter users mocked the piece this morning — pointing out the absurdity in the obviousness of Prince’s position:

Some created parodies of the piece:

Contractors are not inherently bad. I worked as a security contractor in Afghanistan guarding a post so some soldiers or airmen did not have to. It was not shadowy. I was not a mercenary.

But what Prince proposes would fundamentally change how the U.S. conducts war. The guy whose company was responsible for the Nisour Square massacre does not need to be at the table in the debate over the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Looks like we are learning from our mistakes after all.

Trump Announces Afghanistan War Strategy, No One Gives a Shit

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced his new Afghanistan strategy, but no one gives a shit. Distancing himself from the war under Obama, Trump proclaimed additional troops and no timelines, but no one gives a shit.

Trump did not mention any key strategic goals besides the defeat of the Taliban, but no one gives a shit. Trump was secretive about how many more troops would be sent to Afghanistan or what exactly they would be doing, but no one gives a shit.

“Retribution will be fast and powerful,” said Trump of the war launched nearly sixteen years ago in retaliation for the terrorist attacks on 9/11, but no one gives a shit. By not defining any standards for success, Trump is likely shielding himself from any political fallout as conditions in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate, but no one gives a shit.

In truth, such ambiguity by the president may not be necessary. The American public does not seem to attribute any political cost to the war. In the three 2016 presidential debates, Afghanistan was mentioned just one time—in passing—but no one gives a shit.

The speech countered what Trump has said about Afghanistan in the past. Tweeting multiple times from 2011 through 2013, Trump said the war in Afghanistan was a mistake and the United States must leave, but no one gives a shit.

As the war in Afghanistan drags on endlessly, new benchmarks are created. In July, the first American soldier to be a toddler during 9/11 was killed, but no one gives a shit.

American troops in Afghanistan are committed to two concurrent missions: training and advising Afghan forces under NATO-led Operation Resolute Support, and destroying Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, but no one gives a shit.  IS-K did not exist when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Perpetual war destabilized the country enough to allow room for new radical groups to flourish, but no one gives a shit.

Besides IS-K, new troops in Afghanistan will face additional threats. The Department of Defense suggested that Russia is arming the Taliban, but no one gives a shit. The burden will not be carried alone, however. NATO members signaled that they are willing to also increase their troop commitments in Afghanistan, but no one gives a shit.

The speech was welcomed by the Afghan government. Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib, Afghan envoy to the U.S., told AP, “We heard exactly what we needed to. The focus on the numbers has taken away the real focus on what should have been: what conditions are required and what kind of support is necessary.” The Afghan budget is 70% dependent on foreign assistance, but no one gives a shit.

Trump is now the third consecutive president to escalate the war in Afghanistan, but no one gives a shit.

The MOAB and a Brief History of Bombing Afghanistan


The last BLU-82, the predecessor to the MOAB, detonated in Utah by the 711th Special Operations Squadron in 2008 (DoD/Wikimedia Commons photo).

The United States dropped a “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) in Afghanistan on Thursday targeting Islamic State (IS, also referred to as ISIS or ISIL) — its first ever use in combat.

In a statement, the Department of Defense said the bomb, designated the GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast (the common name being a backronym), targeted and destroyed a tunnel complex used by IS in Nangahar province in eastern Afghanistan.

The bomb has the largest explosive yield of any non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal at 11 tons. For comparison, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima had the explosive capability equal to 15,000 tons. The blast radius is roughly one mile.

The strike took place at 7:32 PM local time in Achin district, where ongoing operations against IS in Afghanistan are being conducted as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and in the vicinity of where Special Forces Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar was killed earlier this week.

According to Ismail Shinwari, the governor of Achin district, the strike took place in a remote, mountainous location and there were no reports of civilian casualties. Recently there has been heavy fighting between Afghan forces and IS fighters in the area.

The weapon’s purpose as an air blast weapon, like the BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter” before it, is to destroy troop concentrations and equipment, clear explosives, and intimidate enemy forces. It is not a “bunker buster” designed to penetrate the ground or hardened structures. It was designed before the 2003 Iraq War to pressure Saddam Hussein.

While the trend lately in U.S. counter-terrorist airstrikes has been to use smaller, precise bombs and missiles delivered by drones and F-16s to conduct localized surgical strikes against single rooms or vehicles, the MOAB was kicked out of the back of an MC-130.


A BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter” deployed from an MC-130 on a test range in Utah (DoD/Wikimedia Commons photo).

But this is not the first time large area weapons have been used in Afghanistan. In the beginning of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Daisy Cutters were used to attempt to destroy Al-Qaida and kill Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora, also in Nangahar province. The operation was unsuccessful.

Afghanistan has been the target tens of thousands of airstrikes over the last 15 years. Unfortunately, the amount of civilian casualties per airstrike has risen since 2009, with 2016 the highest year on record. On average, one civilian was killed per every three US airstrikes.

Most civilian airstrike casualties occur in populated areas that the Taliban has infiltrated since most NATO forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014. As of early 2017, the Afghan government only controlled 65 per cent of its territory.

However, airstrikes against IS in Afghanistan have been in less populated areas because the U.S. has not given IS room to grow. The U.S. increased its airstrikes against them in early 2016 when reports of thousands of fighters had established themselves in remote areas of Nangahar. Today, the U.S. estimates only 600 – 800 remain.

I have seen a lot of outcry on social media about the use of the MOAB, presumably versus smaller munitions, but a war is still occurring in Afghanistan whether a MOAB is used or not.

If Governor Shinwari is to be believed and no civilian casualties occurred, perhaps it is a legitimate tactical choice to use a large airburst weapon against the few remaining IS fighters in Afghanistan, especially if we do not want them to take population centers.


A U.S. operator accompanying Afghan commandos (DoD/Wikimedia Commons photo).

Most Americans do not like when American service members are killed overseas. So using a weapon to destroy defenses, IEDs, and potentially psychologically disaffect IS fighters before U.S. Special Forces assist Afghan forces in conducting a dangerous clear and sweep operation on the ground may not be a bad thing.

Time will tell if the weapon was effective (we will have an idea if it is used again), but we should not let ourselves be swept up by the media’s fetishization of military weaponry with sexy names.

The Mass Ordinance Air Blast may be the U.S.’s largest non-nuclear bomb, but at 22,000 lbs of explosive yield it is more comparable to the size of the extensively used drone-launched Hellfire missile (20 lbs) than to “Little Boy”, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima (30 million lbs).

One MOAB was dropped on Thursday. In 2016, the U.S. used so many smaller precision-guided weapons like the Hellfire — tens of thousands — that it could not replenish its stocks to keep up with with demand. Which weapon system has had more impact? You do the math.