Pentagon chief: US won't reveal 'mother of all bombs' toll


The ear-splitting explosion from America's "mother of all bombs" has been followed by calculated silence about the damage it inflicted.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week's use of the military's most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.

The April 13 attack on an IS tunnel and cave complex near the Pakistani border marked the first-ever combat use of the bomb, known officially as a GBU-43B, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb. U.S. military officials have said the 11-ton bomb effectively neutralized an IS defensive position.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, however, called the use of the weapon "an immense atrocity against the Afghan people."

The Afghan government has estimated a death toll of more than 90 militants. It said no civilians were killed.

Reporters traveling with Mattis in Israel asked for his assessment of the bomb's damage, but he refused.

"For many years we have not been calculating the results of warfare by simply quantifying the number of enemy killed," Mattis said.

But the Pentagon sometimes announces death counts after attacks on extremists.

On Jan. 20, for example, it said a B-52 bomber strike killed more than 100 militants at an al-Qaida training camp in Syria. That same day, the Pentagon said more than 150 al-Qaida operatives had been killed by U.S. strikes since Jan. 1.

On Jan. 25 the Pentagon said U.S. strikes in Yemen killed five al-Qaida fighters.

Mattis, who assumed office hours after President Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, hasn't publicly discussed such numbers. He said Thursday his view was colored by lessons learned from the Vietnam war, when exaggerated body counts undermined U.S. credibility.

"You all know the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam war and it's something that's stayed with us all these years," said Mattis, who was in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli government leaders on Friday.

He met Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

The publicity created by the bombing in Afghanistan caught many Pentagon leaders by surprise, leading to questions about whether U.S. commanders fully considered the strategic effects of some seemingly isolated decisions.

The Pentagon also has been criticized for its declaration that an aircraft carrier battle group was being diverted from Southeast Asia to waters off the Korean Peninsula, amid concern that North Korea might conduct a missile or nuclear test. The announcement led to misinformed speculation that the ships were in position to threaten strikes on North Korea.

Mattis said he is confident his commanders are properly weighing their actions.

"If they didn't, I'd remove them," he said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

President Trump in Palm Beach: Season 2 begins this week
President Trump in Palm Beach: Season 2 begins this week

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania outside Trump International Golf Club watching the Palm Beach Central band on Feb. 5 before a Super Bowl party. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump is expected to return to Mar-a-Lago this week to kick off another season of golfing and...
NEW: Florida moped riders under 21 would need helmet under proposed law
NEW: Florida moped riders under 21 would need helmet under proposed law

The days of young adults in Florida under age 21 tooling around on mopeds and scooters without helmets may be numbered.  A bill filed in late September passed the state Senate’s transportation committee Tuesday and is on track for a vote on the Senate floor, the Gainesville Sun reports.  Under the current law, those 16 and older...
SWA accused of delaying minority study until after trash contracts set
SWA accused of delaying minority study until after trash contracts set

Firms owned by women and minorities may not be assured of getting a piece of garbage hauling contracts worth as much as $450 million from the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority because it has failed to respond promptly to a study that found women- and minority-owned firms have not had a fair shot at SWA contracts in recent years. That&rsquo...
Johnson says Senate tax bill would hurt small businesses (like his own)
Johnson says Senate tax bill would hurt small businesses (like his own)

Here's what Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the first Republican to oppose the Senate tax bill, doesn't like about the measure: It would slash tax rates for conventional corporations and give a much smaller tax cut to firms like the four in which he has millions of dollars in investments.  Johnson's office says he does not support the Senate bill because...
Touring photo booth puts a face on DACA repeal
Touring photo booth puts a face on DACA repeal

On Sunday, a day after anti-Trump protesters swarmed the streets of downtown, the Inside Out Project set up its photo booth truck on Flagler Shore for an art exhibit on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  If you walk down Flagler Drive, you’ll see dozens of black-and-white pictures on the road. They&rsquo...
More Stories