Here’s where things stand heading into Day 84 of the Trump administration:

Why did the U.S. military pick the largest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat to drop on eastern Afghanistan on Thursday?

Why would military leaders choose a bomb not designed to penetrate hardened targets if the strike was aimed at Islamic State bunkers and tunnels?

Did the strike accomplish its goal? How many were killed? How many killed were civilians?

And how involved was President Trump in green-lighting such a strike?

These are some of the questions left unanswered after U.S. forces dropped the 22,000-pound GBU-43 munition on an Islamic State tunnel complex in Nangarhar province.

The bombing marked the second time in less than a week that the U.S. military launched a high-profile strike. (See: last week’s missile strikes in Syria.)

There is a lot about Thursday’s action we don’t know, at a time when the Trump administration seems ready to step up military operations across the region.

After U.S. forces dropped a 22,000-pound bomb on the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan on April 13, President Trump called the operation a “successful job.” (Reuters)

Trump declined to say Thursday whether he personally approved the Afghanistan strike, a question White House press secretary Sean Spicer also dodged in Thursday’s press briefing.

“What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump told reporters.

“We have given them total authorizations and that’s what they’re doing and frankly that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”

The military is also facing questions about a U.S. drone strike that killed at least 18 members of an allied Syrian force this week, in what our colleagues described as “the worst friendly fire incident of the war against the Islamic State.”

The U.S.-led coalition said the incident took place after Syrian forces misidentified the unit as a group of fighters for the Islamic State.


Trump and his deputies have been issuing warnings about North Korea for some time. Just this week, the president called the reclusive nation a “menace” that is “looking for trouble” and vowed that the United States will “solve the problem” with or without help from China.

It’s not all just talk, either. The U.S. Navy sent a strike group toward the Korean Peninsula last Sunday. North Korea will be holding major national celebrations this weekend. Pyongyang has warned of an upcoming “big event,” raising concerns its military might undertake another nuclear test, perhaps as early as Saturday.

How would the United States respond?

A report from NBC News said the United State is prepared to launch a preemptive strike on North Korea if it becomes clear the country is about to launch another nuclear test. But, along with enormous attention, the report drew pushback from the Pentagon and reporters from other news outlets.

Our colleague Anna Fifield, who covers North Korea, reported that a preemptive strike didn’t appear to be in the works but that a retaliatory strike is on the table if North Korea does go through with a nuclear test.

We suggest following her at @annafifield for the latest developments, now and over the weekend.


Foreign policy has been the focus of most news coverage this week, but that doesn’t mean the Trump administration is ignoring its supporters’ domestic priorities.

Trump signed a bill into law Thursday that will allow states to withhold federal family-planning funds from clinics that provide abortion services.

In practice, this means Planned Parenthood and other groups could lose tens of millions of dollars in funding under Title X, which pays for birth control and other preventative medical services, though not for abortion.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican leaders called the new law a major antiabortion victory.


The White House is authorizing federal agencies to take steps to shrink their staffs, including offering buyouts and early retirement packages and even pursuing layoffs.

Agencies can eliminate vacant positions altogether or simply decline to fill them under instructions from Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The White House is also instructing many agencies to work on long-term plans to cut their staffs over several years starting in 2018. Layoffs would be justified as agency “restructuring,” our colleague wrote.

Follow the author: @eliseviebeck.