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.
Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson were killed when their convoy was attacked by an overwhelming force of ISIS fighters near the village of Tongo, Tongo, Niger nearly two years ago.
They were part of a group of U.S. and Nigerien forces that set out in unarmored vehicles for a reconnaissance mission that morphed into a disastrous attempt to capture a terrorist.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has accepted the findings of a review that he ordered into the incident, which did not recommend that any high level commanders involved in the planning and execution of the mission be disciplined, according to Politico.
"He should be worried about what lessons we could have learned from this Niger ambush and also who were the general officers that were responsible for making these big mistakes that cost these men's lives," Gallego told Task & Purpose on Thursday. "We as a public have a right to know that and he is part of the problem and not the solution."
The Pentagon said on Thursday it has started a new, "narrowly-scoped" review of a deadly 2017 ambush in Niger, in which four U.S. soldiers were killed, to see whether additional punishments were needed.
The ambush, carried out by a local Islamic State affiliate, brought increased scrutiny of the U.S. counter-terrorism mission in the West African country.
A Pentagon report released late last year found that a series of individual and organizational failures, including a lack of training and situational awareness, contributed to the ambush. While no punishments were made public, lawmakers have expressed concern that junior officers could be blamed for the incident.
"Acting Secretary (Patrick) Shanahan has initiated a new, narrowly-scoped review into the Niger incident," Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Candice Tresch said. She said a four-star flag officer would lead the review.
Some current and former officials have expressed surprise at the decision to take a fresh look at the incident, particularly after the amount of public scrutiny the previous report received.
President Donald Trump's handling of condolence messages to the families of the dead U.S. soldiers was criticized by lawmakers in Washington and raised the profile of the deadly incident.
On Tuesday, Shanahan faced pointed questions from Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) about when he will decide which service members should be reprimanded for the ambush and which troops should receive awards for their heroism during the battle.
"When I came into this role … [former Defense Secretary James Mattis] had convened a review and that recommendation was brought to me," Shanahan said. "I did not find that sufficient, so I convened my own review so I can ensure from top to bottom there is the appropriate accountability."
The Department of Defense last month did an about-face on the punishments handed down to members of the Green Beret team deemed responsible for the deadly Oct. 4, 2017, ambush in Niger that left four Army Special Forces personnel dead, the New York Times reports, shifting blame from junior officers to more senior commanders following a furious intervention from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.