The United States’ decision to unleash 11 tons of explosives on Islamic State complexes in Afghanistan is a significant move on several levels, according to one local expert.
Dr. Justin Conrad is a political science professor at UNC Charlotte who studies international conflict and terrorism around the world, with a focus on the Middle East.
Conrad said the decision to drop the largest non-nuclear weapon ever used in combat on an ISIS target is significant.
It can effectively destroy the tunnels and bunkers where ISIS fighters were believed to be entrenched, according to Conrad. He said Thursday’s attack is likely to draw a quick response from the terrorist group.
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Former FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker told Channel 9 on the phone that FBI employees will have their work cut out for them and will try to get out ahead of any attacks.
“The FBI and all the intelligence services are going to be at a higher sense of alert or higher state of alert for the foreseeable future. Because, one, the Trump administration has reinvigorated this global war against terror,” Swecker said.
Swecker added that the latest bombing could spur ISIS-inspired attacks on U.S. soil.
“It is so sensational, it gets the attention and there is no doubt that ISIS and the terrorist organizations will use that to recruit and use that to inspire,” Swecker said.
But Conrad said it sends a loud message to ISIS and others around the world that the U.S. isn’t backing down.
“I think it’s meant to signal a ramping up on the effort against ISIS and maybe intended to signal a ramping up of effort in areas around the world, not just in Afghanistan,” Conrad said.
One of those areas is Syria, where the U.S. launched nearly 60 tomahawk missiles last week at an airbase. It was home to warplanes that carried out chemical attacks, according to U.S. officials.
Attack may not have lasting effect
Despite the loud message the strike sends, one expert at Winthrop University said this major strike may not have the lasting effect that the president wants.
“We used to talk in Vietnam about bombing them back to the Stone Age,” said Chris Van Aller, a political science professor with a focus on U.S. foreign policy. “And even though we dropped 6 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, it didn’t necessarily work particularly well.”
Van Aller said even if the target is destroyed and ISIS suffers losses, it’s important to think long term and what the impact will be on the entire region.
“If we kill the wrong people or if we delude ourselves into thinking that you can stop an enemy with one or two big bombs, I think we’ll kind of lose the main point,” Van Aller said.
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He also added that the GBU-43B, or massive ordnance air blast weapon, was created for another purpose.
“We developed these weapons to sometimes knock out nuclear weapons way underground, and now we’re using them in perhaps a new way, against a guerilla force,” Van Aller said.
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