On Thursday, the United States dropped a 21,000-pound bomb on Afghanistan in an attempt to disrupt Islamic State fighters. While the bomb — nicknamed the "mother of all bombs," or the "MOAB" — has been around since at least 2003, Thursday marked the first time it had ever been used in combat.
One of the major questions about the Trump administration's use of the MOAB is why former Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush never used the weapon in their respective conflicts and wars even though it was available. A 2003 article about the MOAB tests reveals it was never thought to be a realistic option:
Military analysts in the U.S. say that because the 21,000-pound massive ordnance air burst, or MOAB, is so huge, it can be dropped only from a military cargo plane that flies slowly and at relatively low altitudes, making the plane vulnerable to antiaircraft weapons. And because the bomb causes devastation across such a broad swath, it is unlikely to be used against anything but a large concentration of entrenched enemy troops — just the kind of target likely to be armed with antiaircraft weapons.
"It's really quite improbable that it would be used," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va.
"The Pentagon is committed to avoiding large concentrations of civilians, and it is committed to avoiding putting its pilots and its planes at unnecessary risk. The only real use for this kind of indiscriminate terror weapon is to scare the bejesus out of Saddam Hussein."
The MOAB shares the same acronym as Hussein's memorable threat in 1990 that he would wage the "mother of all battles" against U.S. troops. [The Los Angeles Times]
Back when the MOAB was first developed, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld countered criticism of its creation with an ominous claim: "There is a psychological component to all aspects of warfare."