The alert centred on the Brians Well Road after dissident republicans planted the device.
PSNI officers had been searching the area since a suspicious object was reported on Saturday evening.
Army bomb disposal experts declared the object to be a viable explosive device after its discovery on Sunday.
It was later made safe and was been taken away for forensic examination.
In a statement, Chief Supt Chris Noble said he believed the device was “designed to kill or seriously injure officers serving the local community in west Belfast”.
He added: “It was also left in a position where there is every possibility that it could have killed or maimed members of the public.
“Those who left it have shown callous disregard for the safety of the local community and the police officers serving this community. We are extremely fortunate that no one was killed or seriously injured.”
Praising the local community for their patience during the operation, Ch Supt Noble said: “The security operation caused significant disruption to the people of the area, but was required in order to keep people safe.”
He also condemned the “reckless individuals” who planted the bomb, saying: “The overwhelming number of people in the community do not want this type of activity and we as a police service will continue to work to bring those responsible before the courts.
“We have had officers in the area since yesterday evening. These officers have worked hard to keep people safe during the security operation.
“However, these same officers could have been better used in meeting areas of community concern.
“Arresting drug dealers, drink drivers or working with victims of domestic abuse, for example.”