Niger Ambush Probe To Call For More Scrutiny On US Missions

news
U.S. Army/Spc. Zayid Ballesteros

A military investigation into an ambush last year in Niger in which four U.S. soldiers were killed is expected to recommend tighter oversight of elite forces on the ground and higher command approval for dangerous patrols in the region.


A draft of the U.S. Africa Command report on the Oct. 4 attack by ISIS-affiliated militants calls for reducing the number of U.S. ground missions in Niger and stripping field commanders of authority to dispatch troops on risky missions, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Operations will be subject to more scrutiny and may require approval from senior leaders at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart and the Pentagon, the Times reported, citing unnamed military officials.

Commanders in Niger currently have the authority to make decisions on when to launch reconnaissance patrols.

The report, which is expected to be released publicly in the coming weeks, also found a series of missteps on the ground, such as “a breakdown in communications that may have stemmed from a failure by members of the American and Nigerien team, and their superiors, to check their equipment before heading out on the Oct. 4 mission,” the Times reported.

AFRICOM said to Stars and Stripes on Monday that the investigation remains ongoing.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking to reporters Sunday, said he still needed to review the final report.

“That report is making its way to me. It’s not yet been sent to me,” he said. “I would expect it as soon as the AFRICOM commander has reviewed it. It is extensive. It is thousands of pages long.”

For several years, U.S. forces have been operating outside the public eye in Niger, where troops have worked alongside indigenous forces to counter various extremist groups. Few outside military circles paid any attention to the U.S. mission there until the deaths of American troops.

Even before the Oct. 4 ambush, forces in Niger have come under occasional fire while conducting joint reconnaissance patrols with their Nigerien counterparts. However, the October ambush of a 12-person U.S. special operations team led to an outcry in Washington. Some lawmakers claimed they were largely unaware of military activities in the region, despite White House letters advising Congress of troop levels.

The Times reported that the AFRICOM investigation would produce three reports: one classified, one for the public and one for the families of the slain soldiers — Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright.

U.S. military operations have intensified in Africa in the past several years, with Libya and Somalia being the focus. Scores of airstrikes have been conducted in both countries, where U.S. troops also conduct occasional raids. So far, there is no indication that events in Niger — and the possible scaling back of some operations on the ground there — will prompt similar calls for curtailment in Somalia.

In West Africa, Al Qaeda-aligned militants, a small local Islamic State affiliate and Boko Haram are among the groups that have been a source of concern. Still, there has been little sign that any of those groups, which have a history of shifting alliances and affiliations, have the capacity to pose a threat beyond the region.

“Many of the terrorist groups currently on the U.S. military’s watch list — for which the military is deploying additional special operations troops and building new installations — do not directly impact core U.S. interests,” wrote security expert Steven Feldstein on Friday, in an analysis of Africa terrorism trends for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

———

©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

WATCH NEXT:

Casperassets.rbl.ms

Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less
Veterans Day at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, 11 November, 2018. Photo: Erich Backes/U.S. Army

In typical veteran community fashion, hundreds of people showed up to two separate funerals last week for veterans who otherwise would have been buried alone.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban killed more than 100 members of the Afghan security forces inside a military compound in central Maidan Wardak province on Monday, a senior defense official said.

Read More Show Less
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on January 20 for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the U.S. military's geographic combatant commands.

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.

Read More Show Less
Plebes in the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2015 march into Bancroft Hall following noon meal formation in Tecumseh Court. (U.S. Navy)

Leaking pipes. Moldering walls. Condemned offices and balconies. Plumbing that can't handle its load and a stormwater system dumping unfiltered rainwater into the Severn River.

These aren't the issues of a long-abandoned factory. They describe the current condition of the Naval Academy.

Read More Show Less