The Afghan Government sold lies, the Pentagon kept silent and the media reported.
At first, no Afghan official knew what had happened in the rugged terrain of Achin District in Afghanistan’s volatile eastern province of Nangahrar on the night of April 13, then they pretended they knew somewhat, later they said they know very much, and eventually they started disseminating fake news. And, off course, the friendly media reported diligently.
Initially, there were reports that the U.S. military dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb on Achin District because the so-called Islamic State Khorasan Branch (IS-K) had mined the areas around their tunnels thus making it too risky for ground forces to take on the terror group’s hideouts. Remember, the area was mined and too risky to do any rapid post-strike assessment.
At around 7:30pm (local time) on Thursday April 13, a U.S. warplane dropped MOAB, also known as the mother of all bombs, on IS-K underground facilities in Achin. Hours later, local officials and government spokespeople conceded to reporters over the phone that they had no information about the strike.
At 1:25am (EST) on April 14, the Afghan President’s Twitter handle, @Arg, released four tweets acknowledging the strike and with that the government’s propaganda machinery went full swing.
At 1pm (EST), the Associated Press reported that the strike killed 36 IS-K fighters.
Next day, the CNN reported that 94 were killed.
On April 18, Afghan media started reporting that Indian, Tajikistani and Pakistani nationals were among those killed including 13 IS-K commanders. Afghanistan’s top TV channel, Tolo, even reported a Pakistani Taliban fighter, “Welcome, brother of Hafiz Saeed”, was killed in the MOAB strike.
Meanwhile, and rather ironically, the Pentagon kept a tight mum on MOAB casualties.
When asked about it on April 20, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the Pentagon was not counting enemy casualties. You might think that Secretary Mattis said the truth. However, on April 22, the U.S. military announced the killing of a shadow Taliban governor by an airstrike. “Eight additional Taliban fighters were killed in the strike,” the U.S. Military statement counted.
Even more ironic is the fact that for a week after the strike, the site of the attack was no-go-zone even for the elite Afghan forces. A group of Afghan Special Forces told Tolo TV reporter on April 21 that they “de-mined the site today” and saw “tunnels blocked” and “houses destroyed” about 100-km away from the MOAB strike site.
So, while no one had stepped onto the bombed site, no assessment had been done, no verification conducted and no identifications had been executed we were told, even by the leading international media outlets, exactly how many IS-K fighters were killed and who they really were. Apparently every journalist forgot to do his/her basic job: substantiate the figures/facts given by government spokesmen.
On its April 18 radio broadcasts, IS-K’s Khilafat Radio — yes, IS-K airs propaganda programs on FM waves in Nangarhar Province — dubbed the MOAB strike a complete failure because the mother of all bombs was dropped on “empty spots”.
President Donald Trump, however, called the MOAB strike as “successful” on April 13. How successful was it and what “success” really means is open for everyone to guess — perhaps to test the bomb (as former Afghan President Hamid Karzai says), or to warn N. Korea (as some Afghan analysts say), or to paralyze IS-K operational capability (as Afghan government says).
As for the media reports on the world’s first-ever MOAB strike, did they just feed us alternative facts or mere fake news?