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Editorial: Weapon-testing lab; is it?

About more than two years ago, the US forces dropped the ‘mother of all bombs’ in the Mohmand Dara area of Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province, describing the target to be a Daesh hideout. In the wake of the 20,000-pound weapon which costs an estimated $170,000 per bomb, the local population has been afflicted by different kinds of diseases and their lands have turned barren since then. Residents have complained that it harmed their health, causing conditions such as skin disease, loss of memory, respiratory illness, and malformed birth of some children. The bomb has reportedly also contaminated soil and affected agriculture. Although an Afghan parliamentary delegation visited Nangarhar to investigate the aftermath of the impact just days after the bomb was dropped, no further probes have been carried out since then.

According to the US military in Afghanistan, the bomb had hit a tunnel complex where Daesh fighters had found sanctuary. Nonetheless, they didn’t say how many militants were killed, or whether the bombing caused any civilian casualties. But still, they called it a huge success against Daesh. This is while recently, the so-called Islamic State (IS) is seemingly on the back foot in the region as last month President Ashraf Ghani said his government had “obliterated” IS in Afghanistan because hundreds of IS militants laid down arms before the state. Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Interior, as many as 1,450 Daesh militants, including foreigners, have laid down arms in the past one month in Nangarhar. As much as it seems that the Daesh terrorist group is losing its footprint in Afghanistan but at what cost did that happen? Also, it’s not certain if they have been truly crushed or did they just went into hibernation?

Officially known as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), the bomb was used for the first time in Afghanistan in April 2017. When developed, it was said to be the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal. Rising complaints and apprehensions from locals have only forced the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to reportedly send researchers and doctors to the bombing site and hospitals in Jalalabad for investigation. A lawmaker has also expressed grave concern in this regard and asked the members of parliament to form up and dispatch a delegation to the area in order to inspect the impacts of the bomb on human life. Understandably, the use of high explosives wouldn’t just happen without having any inevitable repercussion. But unfortunately, the Afghan government has remained in different concerning this issue because it didn’t lift a finger to object the use of the bomb and took no action to find out about the bomb’s results. There may have been many other options to defeat the IS in the tunnel had they only thought through the aftermath but nobody cares if residents have to suffer. Without having the figures of casualties, it means Washington treated Afghanistan’s terrain as a testing ground for its new and dangerous weapons in the name of targeting Daesh. As nothing much can be done now regarding the mark the bombing left on the poor, war-ravaged Afghans, the government should now rush to the rescue of the affected and ailing people, as well as avert the use of such massive bombs in the future.

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