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Two senior Army officers are reportedly still eligible for promotion after failings found during Niger attack
Two commanders involved with the deadly 2017 Niger ambush are reportedly still eligible for promotion, and the Pentagon has no problem with that.
Four soldiers were killed on Oct. 4, 2017 when their convoy was attacked by more than 100 ISIS fighters near the village of Tongo Tongo: Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.
U.S. Africa Command's investigation into the incident found serious problems with how their team was trained before and after arriving in theater and how the mission was planned. Their commanders also did not adequately work with French and Nigerien forces for casualty evacuation planning prior to the mission, according to a redacted copy of the investigation, which was provided to Task & Purpose.
The mission itself kept changing, and when the team asked to return to base, they were told to continue to their objective even though commanders had not reassessed the risks they faced given that the team had no plan to evacuate wounded under fire; no quick reaction forces were assigned to them; the team had little rest in the past 24 hours; and they would be operating near the border with Mali, the investigation found.
Still, Politico has reported that Col. Brad Moses, who was commander of 3rd Special Forces Group in Africa during the deadly incident, is still eligible for selection to brigadier general, though he has not yet been nominated. Lt. Col. David Painter, who reportedly denied the team's request to return to base, has also been selected to advance to colonel (The Army confirmed to Task & Purpose that Painter is a colonel-select).
Efforts to reach both men for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Defense officials appeared as bewildered as deer caught in headlights when reporters asked them on Wednesday why Moses and Painter were not punished.
"The department is absolutely confident after two investigations and three reviews that accountability has been rendered in this case," said Owen West, assistant secretary of defense for special operations.
A total of nine "disciplinary actions" have been taken as a result of the Niger ambush, said West, who did not name the personnel who were punished administratively. Politico has identified one of the commanders disciplined as Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks, head of Special Operations Command Africa, who is set to retire soon.
Army Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas III, former head of U.S. Special Operations Command, found there was "no criminal negligence" committed by anyone involved with the mission, a defense official said.
"There was poor judgment and tactical leadership," the defense official said. "We hold people accountable, but the UCMJ was not the appropriate method for this type of accountability. There's a non-judicial process for holding people accountable"
However, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) slammed the Defense Department on Wednesday for its handling of the Niger ambush aftermath. The Marine veteran accused the Pentagon of putting all the blame for what went wrong on junior officers and enlisted service members.
"Nearly two years later, we are still waiting for answers," Gallego said in a statement. "The Pentagon has refused to comply with the mandate to provide Congress with a comprehensive account of what went wrong and the lessons learned, and to provide the families of those lost with any semblance of closure."One thing is clear: mistakes were made that cost these men's lives," he continued.
"Their families – and the American public – deserve clear answers about what happened, who will be held accountable, and what will be done to prevent this from ever happening again."
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Col. Brad Moses was to be promoted to brigadier general. The story has been updated to reflect that Moses is still eligible for the promotion, but has not yet been nominated.
SEE ALSO: 4 Soldiers Fought To Their Deaths In Niger Ambush, Pentagon Now Says
WATCH NEXT: Defense Officials Brief Press on Niger Investigation Results
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.