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2 Months After The Deadly Ambush In Niger, Green Berets Hit Back At ISIS — Hard
Just two months after four U.S. service members were killed by ISIS militants during a deadly ambush in Niger, their fellow Green Berets struck back against the terror group.
Department of Defense officials announced on Wednesday that Army Special Forces personnel and Nigerien security forces killed 11 ISIS fighters during an intense firefight in December. According to the New York Times, which first reported the news, no U.S. or Nigerian military personnel were injured during the incident.
The combined U.S.-Nigerian force "came under fire from a formation of violent extremists" believed to be affiliated with ISIS-West Africa during a mission in the Lake Chad Basin region, U.S. Africa Command spokesman Pat Barnes told Task & Purpose. And although previous reports had indicated that the ill-fated Oct. 4 ambush that cost four members of the 3rd Special Forces Group their lives had deviated from its original mission, AFRICOM characterized the Dec. 6 encounter as conventional.
"The purpose of this mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region," Barnes told Task & Purpose. "There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred."
The firefight signals an uptick in aggressive U.S.-led counterterrorism operations in Niger and neighboring countries in the months after the Oct. 4 ambush. Just weeks after the tragic incident, the Army announced it was "boosting" its security, intelligence, and training operations in the Lake Chad Basin region that's become a hotbed for Islamic militants returning home from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria.
But the firefight also remains the first instance of prolonged combat between U.S.-led and ISIS forces in Niger formally acknowledged by AFRICOM since the Oct. 4 ambush apart from, as the New York Times notes, apart from a single line in a report delivered to Congress by the Trump administration regarding the use of U.S. military force abroad. And with Secretary of Defense James Mattis currently reviewing the findings of the DoD's internal investigation into the causes of the Oct. 4 ambush, it's unclear how news of the incident might reverberate in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
As the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria winds down, it's almost certain U.S. military personnel will increasingly encounter ISIS fighters dug in across the African continent. And according to AFRICOM officials, soldiers are ready for it.
"Our forces do operate in unstable areas and are occasionally exposed to danger from enemy forces," Barnes told Task & Purpose. "When such a situation occurs, our personnel are authorized to respond to threats and violence appropriately."
Senior Pentagon correspondent Jeff Schogol contributed reporting
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.
Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.
For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.
"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.
In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.
"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.
"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."
Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.
Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.
"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'
More than 700 women and children affiliated with ISIS escape Kurdish prison camp after Turkish shelling
BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.
Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.
Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.