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'The Message From Mattis Is Basically Square Your Shit': DoD Scrambles For Facts In Niger
In the month since four Army Special Forces and five local security forces troops were killed by jihadi-aligned militants in Niger, the Department of Defense has insisted that the ambush was a complete surprise, catching the joint patrol off guard while they were on a routine mission to meet with local leaders in a village near the Mali border.
But the government of Niger is telling a different story. ABC News reported on Nov. 2 that the mission “was always” to kill or capture Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, a terror leader code-named “Naylor Road” with ties to both ISIS and Al Qaeda, according to four separate senior Nigerien officials.
While the Department of Defense told Task & Purpose the U.S. personnel deployed on the fateful missions “were unequivocally not directed to do a, 'kill or capture mission,’” the month of ambiguity surrounding the Pentagon’s Niger narrative has left America’s military leaders exasperated. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has become increasingly frustrated with U.S. Africa Command leadership — particularly Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the top general in charge of the command — over the delayed fact-finding in the immediate aftermath of the ambush.
“The message from Mattis is basically ‘Square your shit,’” one U.S. military official recently told Task & Purpose. “We need to fix the narrative. Now.” (U.S. Africa Command did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Task & Purpose.)
A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Flintlock is a Special Operations Forces exercise geared toward building interoperability between African and western partner nations.Photo via DoD
The new ABC News report expands on a previous report in which senior U.S. intelligence officials had alleged the Niger patrol only “turned into” a kill-or-capture excursion after the contingent arrived at a nearby village. Whether or not the mission was kill-or-capture from the start, it was authorized “without additional support requested by Nigerien forces,” even after a team leader in country from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group “expressed concerns about the mission after a second U.S. and Nigerien unit was unable to join them for the operation,” according to ABC News.
That second team — a contingent of U.S., French, and Nigerien special forces publicly acknowledged on Oct. 23 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff director, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. — was reportedly on a separate, parallel kill-or-capture mission “in the area” when the ambush occurred, U.S. intelligence officials told UPI.
Concerns among U.S. forces ended up being well-founded. Both U.S. and Nigerien officials believe the villagers “set up” the patrol to stumble into a horde of more than 50 heavily-armed militants. But that doesn’t square with the Pentagon’s assertion that they had no intelligence suggesting enemy contact. It also casts doubt on the DoD’s assertion that the counterterrorism forces deployed in the Lake Chad Basin region were solely for non-combat “advise and assist” missions.
“We don’t accompany local partner forces [on patrol] when contact with the enemy is expected,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford emphasized to the press during an Oct. 23 briefing at the Pentagon. “Either we stay back in cover and conceal positions, or we don’t even go.”
Nigerien service members in a multinational military exercise in Diffa, Niger, March 3, 2017.Photo via DoD
These discrepancies have put the Pentagon in hot water. They’re relying on U.S. Africa Command, the combatant command leading the DoD investigation into the ambush, to parcel out information in morsels to the rest of the defense establishment.
With U.S. Army Africa retasking military personnel from across the continent for accelerated security, intelligence, and training operations in the Lake Chad Basin region — 80% of upcoming security cooperation activities involving security forces from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, the branch announced on Oct. 26 — it seems likely that those “advise and assist” missions that have become a staple of the Global War on Terror will increasingly involve kinetic counterterrorism options. And that could mean more caskets returning home to Dover Air Force Base, whether the Pentagon settles on a new narrative or not.
White supremacist Coast Guard officer who allegedly plotted mass violence imprisoned ahead of fresh charges
GREENBELT, Md. (Reuters) - A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of amassing a cache of weapons and plotting to attack Democratic politicians and journalists was ordered held for two weeks on Thursday while federal prosecutors consider charging him with more crimes.
Attorneys for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump asking the court to recognize the citizenship of an Alabama woman who left the U.S. to join ISIS and allow she and her young son to return to the United States.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will leave "a small peacekeeping group" of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a U.S. pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.
Trump claims border wall is under construction 'right now' using fence repair footage from 5 months ago
With a legal fight challenge mounting from state governments over the Trump administration's use of a national emergency to construct at the U.S.-Mexico border, the president has kicked his push for the barrier into high gear.
On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted a time-lapse video of wall construction in New Mexico; the next day, he proclaimed that "THE WALL IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION RIGHT NOW"
But there's a big problem: The footage, which was filmed more than five months ago on Sep. 18, 2018, isn't really new wall construction at all, and certainly not part of the ongoing construction of "the wall" that Trump has been haggling with Congress over.
Group of American vets detained in Haiti on weapons charges brought back to US, arrested upon landing
A group comprised of former U.S. military veterans and security contractors who were detained in Haiti on weapons charges has been brought back to the United States and arrested upon landing, The Miami-Herald reported.
The men — five Americans, two Serbs, and one Haitian — were stopped at a Port-au-Prince police checkpoint on Sunday while riding in two vehicles without license plates, according to police. When questioned, the heavily-armed men allegedly told police they were on a "government mission" before being taken into custody.