Trump declined to say whether he personally signed off on the bomb
It comes a week after Trump authorized missile strike against the Syrian government
The United States on Thursday dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its military arsenal for the first time in history.
But President Donald Trump declined to say whether he personally signed off on the use of the GBU-43/B MOAB, also known as the “mother of all bombs,” in a strike on ISIS militants in Afghanistan.
“Everybody knows exactly what happens. So, what I do is I authorize our military,” Trump said when asked whether he authorized the strike. “We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing.”
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Sources told CNN that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb. The White House was informed of the plan before the MC-130 aircraft delivered its 21,600-pound payload.
Trump has given military commanders broader latitude to act independently on several battlefields where US forces are involved, which Trump touted as making a “tremendous difference” in the fight against ISIS.
While Trump’s comments Thursday suggested that he was not personally involved in the decision to drop the bomb, Trump was eager to associate himself with the bold display of power.
Trump praised the military for the bombing run and called it “another very, very successful mission.”
A senior administration official, who declined to say whether Trump had ordered the strike in Afghanistan said, in general, “we don’t approve every strike,” adding that “this administration has moved further away” from dictating military strategy from the White House.
It’s a change both the President and Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted, the official said.
The bombing in Afghanistan comes a week after Trump authorized a US missile strike against a Syrian government air base – the first US strike against the Syrian government in the country’s six-year civil war.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier on Thursday confirmed the strike took place, targeting “a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters use to move around freely,” but also declined to answer any questions about Trump’s role in authorizing first-ever use of the MOAB bomb on the battlefield.
Spicer also deferred all questions about the decision to use the bomb and the potential for future uses of the bomb on other battlefields to the Defense Department.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.