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Why Did the U.S. Just Bomb Afghanistan? The Race to Explain It

With tensions ramping up in Syria, the U.S. drops a massive bomb on… Afghanistan. Journalists scrambled to explain why

Tensions are rising between the U.S. and Russia, Syria and North Korea. So the Trump Administration took pretty much everyone by surprise Thursday when it dropped “the mother of all bombs” Thursday on… Afghanistan.

The attack left journalists and pundits rushing to explain Thursday what, exactly, is going on. Afghanistan experts who thought their services might not be required this week were suddenly fitted with earpieces and pushed in front of cameras. With nothing certain, Trump’s critics accused him of using the bombing to distract from his own failings. His supporters, meanwhile, praised him for taking tough action against ISIS, the stated target of the attack.

The news broke just before a previously scheduled briefing with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who explained that the U.S. had targeted a series of tunnels and caves that ISIS uses to travel freely, allowing it to target “U.S. military advisors and Afghan forces in the area.”

The bomb, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, is the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, and had never been used in combat before. The military is currently assessing the damage, but Spicer said the U.S. tried to mitigate any civilian casualties.

CNN Pentagon reporter Ryan Browne told Brooke Baldwin on the air: “The military says it was the right weapon for the right target.” Browne pointed to the death of a U.S special forces solider in the area last weekend as a possible reason for the attack.

“They saw this cave complex as a particularly difficult target… they wanted to use a bomb that could completely knock it out,” Browne said.

ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News offered descriptions of the attacks and the bomb, without saying conclusively why the attack occurred when it did.

The information vacuum led many Trump critics to speculate, as they did after last week’s air strikes on Syria, that he had ordered military action to distract the public from his own woes — a classic “wag the dog” scenario. Some pointed to a recent story in The Guardian discussing a possible connection between Trump advisers and Russian leaders.

Others suggested Trump had simply delivered on a campaign promise. Breitbart News featured a headline, “Bomb The **** Out Of ISIS,” echoing a speech Trump delivered on the campaign trail when he promised to “bomb the s**t out of them” if he became president.

And some believe that the Afghanistan strike had everything to do with the U.S.’s disputes with Russia, Syria and North Korea: By bombing Afghanistan, this argument goes, Trump sent a signal to other countries that Trump demands to be taken seriously and is willing to use America’s military arsenal. That attitude was reflected in this tweet from Fox News’ Trish Regan:

Here are more responses to the Afghanistan bombing.