Between 2015 and 2017, U.S. troops have been involved in 11 firefights in West Africa, the New York Times reported on March 14.
Despite these repeated clashes, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said on Thursday the majority of U.S. troops in Africa are taking part in “train and advise” missions.
“There’s a great deal of ungoverned space within Africa, and we’re helping those security forces increase their capabilities so that they can manage the security situations themselves,” White told reporters during a weekly Pentagon news briefing.
A Marine shakes hands with a Uganda Peoples' Defence Force soldier after training at Camp Singo, Uganda, Feb. 8, 2018.U.S. Marine Corps / Staff Sgt. Allyson L. Manners.
In Niger specifically, Americans try to conduct joint patrols with their Nigerien counterparts when “combat is unlikely,” said Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff.
Before both the October and December missions in Niger, U.S. military officials assumed that it was unlikely for U.S. troops to find themselves in combat, he added.
“Patrolling with our Nigerien partners continues – not combat operations,” McKenzie said. “The intent is for our partners to do the fighting, for us to support them up until the last covered, concealed position before they become engaged. We do not intend to seek combat with our forces in Niger.”
However, “the enemy gets a vote” on whether U.S. troops have to join the fight, he acknowledged.
“It’s simply a fact of life,” McKenzie said. “We try to control the environment as much as we can, but if we get into a combat situation, we’re prepared to react to that.”
Because the October and December battles took place roughly 1,100 kilometers from each other, it is unlikely that the ISIS fighters whom U.S. troops killed in December were among the force that killed the four U.S. soldiers in October, he said.
News of the December battle was not reported until more than three months after it happened, in keeping with the Pentagon’s crackdown on publicizing any information that defense officials think could be valuable to enemies.
When asked why the Pentagon did not announce in December that U.S. forces had killed 11 ISIS fighters in Niger, White indicated that the battle was not an isolated incident, arguing that U.S. troops are “often in harm’s way.”
“There are tactical things that happen that we don’t put out a press release about,” White said. “We also don’t want to give a report card to our adversaries. They learn a great deal from information that we put out, and they don’t deserve a report card on how they could be more lethal.”
Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)
NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.
Russian President Vladimir Putin fires a fortress cannon. (Associated Press/Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that Russia will target the U.S. with new weapons should Washington decide to deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to Europe following the recent death of a Cold War-era arms control agreement, according to multiple reports.
He threatened to target not only the host countries where U.S. missiles might be stationed but also decision-making centers in the U.S.
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)
The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.