White House officials dodged questions about whether President Donald Trump authorized the use of the "mother of all bombs" on an ISIS target in Afghanistan, which the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Trump said after that he was "very, very proud" of the military's "successful job," but declined to say whether he authorized the strike.
"Everybody knows exactly what happens, so — and what I do is I authorize my military," Trump said. "We have the greatest military in the world, and they've done a job as usual, so we have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing. And, frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately."
The US had dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also known as the "Mother of All Bombs" or "MOAB" because of its acronym, on an ISIS target in a remote part of far northeast Afghanistan this week. It is the largest nonnuclear bomb in the US military's inventory.
Trump also declined to discuss whether the strike played into a broader strategy to intimidate North Korea, which Trump has been trying to reign in since becoming president.
"I don't know if this sends a message. It doesn't make any difference if it does or not," Trump said. "North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of."
The White House also sidestepped questions about Trump's role in the Afghanistan operation.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Thursday that the US "takes the fight against ISIS very seriously," but declined to say whether Trump personally authorized the use of the bomb. He directed further questions to the Defense Department.
Sources told CNN that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, authorized the strike. The White House was reportedly informed of the plan in advance.
CNN noted that Trump has given his military commanders more freedom to act independently of the White House, which could explain why Trump might not have been in on the decision to use the MOAB.
Adam Lowther, the director of the US Air Force's School of Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies, told Business Insider that the bomb was "not even close to being a nuclear weapon" and that he would "not make the argument that it's a symbol of escalation" in the conflict in Afghanistan.
Spicer said the bomb targeted "a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely."
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