The US commander in Afghanistan who ordered use of the "mother of all bombs" to attack an ISIS stronghold near the Pakistani border didn't need and didn't request President Donald Trump's approval, Pentagon officials say. The officials—who weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity—tell the AP that even before Trump took office in January, Gen. John Nicholson had standing authority to use the bomb, which is officially called the Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB. The bomb's use has attracted enormous attention, but its aim in Thursday's attack was relatively mundane by military standards: destroy a tunnel and cave complex used by ISIS fighters in a mountainous area.
Nicholson had a secondary goal in mind, however, according to a Pentagon official who says the general wanted to demonstrate to leaders of the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan the seriousness of his determination to eliminate the group as a military threat. An Afghan official said Saturday that the death toll from the bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat by the US, has risen to 94. The official says the death toll could rise further, but there is no sign of civilians having been killed. Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Saturday criticized both the Afghan and US governments for the attack, saying allowing the US to carry out the bombing was "a national treason" and an insult to Afghanistan. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)