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Ian McColgin
05-06-2017, 10:22 PM
[IMc - Prior to his first tour in Vietnam, my cousin, a West Point graduate and by then a captain, told me that you judge military success by prisoners captured and territory held, which means reasonably safe for civilians and our side's military in day and night. I notice neither of those being touted in Afghanistan.]

Published on Friday, May 05, 2017, by Common Dreams

Fresh Questions Raised About Impact of Trump's "Mother of All Bombs" Moment
Analysis of high-res imagery finds extent of damage over-estimated, calls zero civilian casualty claim 'anomalous'

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

President Donald Trump declared his deployment of the "mother of all bombs" on a remote region of Afghanistan last month a "very successful" mission, but a new analysis is raising questions as to what was actually accomplished and why the mammoth explosive was even dropped to begin with.

The U.K.-based geographic information services (GIS) analyst group Alcis on Wednesday published a new report on the long-term, on-the-ground impact of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB). [https://stories.alcis.org/after-the-dust-settles-making-sense-of-the-non-sense-c97da619a20f?platform=hootsuite]

"Drawing on very high resolution satellite imagery, along with recent ground photography and reporting, it is now clear that the recent MOAB strike in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan created far less damage and destruction than was initially widely reported," the report states.

While the survey confirms the "absolute" destruction of "38 buildings and 69 trees within an area extending 150 meters from the center of the strike location," the high-res images also reveal "the absence of a 300 meter crater at the strike location"—which was said to be an "expectation" of the blast.

Further, "debunking media reports of the MOAB strike destroying buildings over three kilometers away," the analysis finds that the damage reported in nearby villages was more likely the "consequence of the ongoing conflict in the area, most likely airstrikes carried out by the U.S. military."

"Whilst media interest in the story of the MOAB strike was significant, military commentary on the other hand was and still remains muted, save for a few limited press statements and briefings" Alcis observes, noting that the U.S. military is "yet to release a full damage assessment" of the strike.

The Pentagon claimed that the MOAB was dropped to destroy an Islamic State (ISIS) tunnel complex and was, according to Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis, "necessary to break" the terrorist group in that region.

"In Afghanistan, [U.S. forces] have been engaged in that fight up in that corner against ISIS elements up there for some time," Mattis said at the time. "The battle was going on, and we were going to use what was necessary to break ISIS. And we've made that very clear in every theater where we're up against ISIS."

However, the report notes that "damage to caves and tunnels within the strike location has not yet been assessed." The Guardian previously reported that the U.S. military has only allowed the Afghan government "limited access to the blast site," making it impossible to verify the impact.

At the time it was dropped, critics accused Trump of employing the massive weapon to distract from his domestic political woes, such as plummeting approval ratings and various legislative failures—a so-called 'Wag the Dog' moment. Not only was the bombing successful in capturing the media's attention, it was also approved by a majority of the American people despite the dearth of information on its impact.

Reporting on the new analysis, the Guardian's Sune Engel Rasmussen noted Friday that the study "once again raises the question why the MOAB was used."

"In Afghanistan," Engel Rasmussen observed, "ISIS constitutes a minor military threat compared to the Taliban. There has been speculation that the U.S. wanted to send a signal to other powers in the region, but [U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, Capt. William Salvin] insisted the MOAB was used for a 'specific tactical purpose on the battlefield.'"

However, Richard Brittan, managing director of Alcis, said "that argument only made sense if the U.S. wanted to deploy MOABs on hundreds of similar settlements in the targeted Mahmand valley, which would put years of development work at risk," Engel Rasmussen reported.

"If their approach is that they are going to level this valley with all its settlements, then MOABs galore," Brittan said. "But getting people back to making a living off the land is what you've got to focus on."

The Alcis analysis, which is the second of three reports on the strike, also casts doubt the Afghan military's claim that "94 militants including four major commanders had been killed in the strike," calling that assessment "overly precise." At the same time, it says the claim of zero civilian casualties is "anomalous."

Satellite imagery of active crops in the region led the researchers to suppose that the fields would not have been left unattended. "Indeed, it is likely that some of the farmers tending these fields would have been residing within the buildings of the settlement obliterated by the MOAB strike," the report states. "It is therefore entirely possible that the count of casualties has included working-age male farmers rather than solely militants, as the Afghan defense ministry has indicated."

Mattis has refused to give an estimate of the death toll.

Notably, the analysis comes amid reports that the Pentagon is going to request 3,000 to 5,000 more soldiers to be sent to Afghanistan to help "break a deadlocked fight with the Taliban," according to AFP.

Glen Longino
05-06-2017, 10:46 PM
When will all of the psychiatrists in the world publish their diagnosis of Donald Trump as insane and a threat to Humanity at large?
Not to do so immediately is wholesale professional negligence, IMO.

ron ll
05-06-2017, 10:50 PM
A government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Yeah, right.

skuthorp
05-07-2017, 02:14 AM
When will all of the psychiatrists in the world publish their diagnosis of Donald Trump as insane and a threat to Humanity at large?
Not to do so immediately is wholesale professional negligence, IMO.
Not just DT, this has been going on for decades. There hasn't been a decision maker in Aus's, the Brit's or the US's chain of command that isn't guilty of negligence, manslaughter and accumulated war crimes.

CWSmith
05-07-2017, 07:47 AM
[IMc - Prior to his first tour in Vietnam, my cousin, a West Point graduate and by then a captain, told me that you judge military success by prisoners captured and territory held, which means reasonably safe for civilians and our side's military in day and night. I notice neither of those being touted in Afghanistan.]

Sorry, Ian, but isn't this part of the fundamental failure in understanding the Vietnam situation? This is traditional WWII thinking and Vietnam was a guerilla war. It was entirely about winning the will and hearts of the people which we failed to do. You win a guerilla war either by winning over the people who support them or by killing all the guerillas.

Ian McColgin
05-07-2017, 08:33 AM
The hearts and minds is a poor approximation of guerrilla war but is on some of the right track. Much of the problem is that metrics in war are problematic at best and in Vietnam we set up positively stupid metrics, most notoriously including body counts. You'd think that the post WWII Strategic Bombing Survey would have taught better.

My cousin's instructors at West Point were on the point that even at asymmetric warfare, some measures remain. Talking to his OSS comrades during WWII, Ho Chi Minh happily explained this understanding of George Washington's genius. Almost all of our "hearts and minds metrics" have been misleading, at best, since 1959.

Gerarddm
05-07-2017, 08:44 AM
Use of this weapon is nothing but preening bluster in the overall scale of the conflict. It is the perfect expression of the character of the current president.

David G
05-07-2017, 09:18 AM
When will all of the psychiatrists in the world publish their diagnosis of Donald Trump as insane and a threat to Humanity at large?
Not to do so immediately is wholesale professional negligence, IMO.

^^^^

peb
05-07-2017, 10:04 AM
Prisoners captured was a priority for the Bush administration, goal being to get intelligence about terrorist attacks. But that presented lots of problems, locking them up at quantonimo was not a good solution for Obama. So instead it was decided to escalate drone attacks and just kill the targets. Military went along with that as it was safer than risking special forces.
I don't see how the continuation if that trend can be blamed on Trump.

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Canoeyawl
05-07-2017, 01:34 PM
Bush continued to ignore warnings about Al Qaeda being determined to attack the US. You are implying we should not blame the one continuing?

Um, OK ... "Don't blame me, Little Sister did it first!"

Ian McColgin
05-07-2017, 01:39 PM
We have enough fraud and misadventure going on right now without worrying about exactly who started it. Really, why go back to Kermit Roosevelt?

Canoeyawl
05-07-2017, 01:49 PM
Anything Trump is going to involve fraud, get used to it.

LeeG
05-07-2017, 02:04 PM
Prisoners captured was a priority for the Bush administration, goal being to get intelligence about terrorist attacks. But that presented lots of problems, locking them up at quantonimo was not a good solution for Obama. So instead it was decided to escalate drone attacks and just kill the targets. Military went along with that as it was safer than risking special forces.
I don't see how the continuation if that trend can be blamed on Trump.

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The militarization of counter terrorism and the flawed policy of conflating specific terrorists responsible for 9/11 with 40,000 Taliban, then later 100,000's in militias in Iraq can't be blamed on Trump or Obama but it set the country on a course that is very hard to undo when so many institutions are set in that direction. Trump has reversed some of the efforts Obama made to reduce civilian deaths in UAV attacks by giving back to the CIA their own UAV missions.

skuthorp
05-07-2017, 04:05 PM
Hearts and minds eh?

Satellite imagery of active crops in the region led the researchers to suppose that the fields would not have been left unattended. "Indeed, it is likely that some of the farmers tending these fields would have been residing within the buildings of the settlement obliterated by the MOAB strike," the report states. "It is therefore entirely possible that the count of casualties has included working-age male farmers rather than solely militants, as the Afghan defense ministry has indicated."

peb
05-07-2017, 05:44 PM
We have enough fraud and misadventure going on right now without worrying about exactly who started it. Really, why go back to Kermit Roosevelt?
I tend to agree with this. But your original post said military success should be measured by prisoners taken. I was simply pointing out the strategy of killing as opposed to taking prisoners certainly predates Trump.

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Ian McColgin
05-07-2017, 06:04 PM
I clearly failed to make totally clear the point my West Point cousin was making - War metrics that can not be verified by a third party at a later time are subject untrammeled optimism if not down right fraud. With prisoners you can find out - as we have with so many of the Guantanamo prisoners - that they were not in fact part of the enemy, at least not till we started torturing them.

Corpses, not so much.

No West Point instructor and certainly not I could fancy that prisoners and land are sole measures.