The U.S. military is defending its use of the biggest conventional bomb ever deployed on the battlefield to take out a cave complex in an area where most of the ISIS fighters in Afghanistan were believed to be hiding.
The attack came two days after the U.S. struck an IS hideout with a massive bomb in Afghanistan, killing scores of militants and destroying several bunkers and underground tunnels in Achin district. The villagers described the explosion as earsplitting.
Shinwari insisted there were "no military and civilian casualties at all".
The move was interpreted by many as a major shift of United States policy toward Daesh in Afghanistan as officials in Washington earlier downplayed a threat, saying global efforts in Afghanistan should still concentrate on battling the Taliban rather than Daesh. The strike caused a giant explosion that destroyed the landscape and created a massive column of black smoke.
"This was the right weapon for the right target", said U.S. Gen. John W. Nicholson, NATO commander in Afghanistan, at a news conference. He added, "We have USA forces at the site, and we see no evidence of civilian casualties nor have there been reports".
Afghan troops, backed by US warplanes and special forces, have been battling militants linked to Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan for years.
Current President Ashraf Ghani's office said Friday there was "close co-ordination" between the US military and the Afghan government on the operation, and they were careful to prevent any civilian casualties.
Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said no civilians were harmed in the massive blast that targeted a network of caves and tunnels that had been heavily mined. According to him, the bombing was necessary because some of the tunnels were as deep as 40 meters and extremely hard to penetrate. He called it a "strong position", with troops attacking it four times without advancing, adding that the complex "was full of mines". Nicholson stated that USA forces had "surveillance over the area before, during and after the operation, and now we have Afghan and USA forces on the site and see no evidence of civilian casualties".
Another Achin resident, Mohammad Hakim, voiced his approval for the strike, saying "We are very happy and these kinds of bombs should be used in future as well, so Daesh is rooted out from here", using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.
The Taliban, the main security threat to Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces trying to quell their stubborn insurgency, also denounced the bombing.
"This bomb wasn't only a violation of our sovereignty and a disrespect to our soil and environment, but will have bad effects for years", he said, adding, "I chose to get America off my soil".