According to a senior congressional aide, the ambush that led to the deaths of four servicemen may have partially stemmed from a “massive intelligence failure.” The aide, who has been briefed on the matter, spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that congressional armed services committees have questions regarding the scope of the mission and whether proper support was provided.
As reported by NBC News, the ambush occurred on October 4 when 40 to 50 militants attacked a 12-man team of US military personnel in Niger. Four servicemen were killed, and another two were wounded.
According to the Pentagon, the patrol was considered routine, as similar missions were completed 30 times during the six months prior to the attack.
Both the House and Senate armed services committees have inquired about the scope of the mission as well as if the Pentagon was providing a proper level of support to US troops on the ground in Niger.
The aide stated there was no US overhead surveillance taking place at the time of the ambush and no American quick-reaction force was available to rescue the troops in the event of an emergency.
He asserts that if it wasn’t for the presence of the French fighter jets, the situation could have been much worse.
Members of Congress are seeking additional information regarding the specifics of the mission and have questions about lawmaker’s accounts of the incident and the timeline surrounding the attack and rescue efforts.
Some of the questions focus on whether the US troops were delayed in the village intentionally during their visit. The aide added that the soldiers were pursuing men on motorcycles who lured them into the ambush.
He also asserted that the militants had “technical” vehicles as well as rocket-propelled grenades.
The aide said that it became clear that a soldier was missing after the rescue and “movements and actions to try and find him and bring him back were considered. They just were not postured properly [to get him].”
The body of Sgt. La David Johnson, the missing soldier, was not recovered until approximately 48 hours after the ambush.
Though the Pentagon did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for a comment, US officials asserted that it is too early to determine if an intelligence failure occurred.
On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that “every tactical engagement doesn’t necessarily proceed from an intelligence failure. We’ll look at it, and we’ll come to conclusions about how intelligence could have supported adequately or inadequately the engagement that occurred. But, on a battlefield, the enemy gets a vote.”
Sen Lindsay Graham expressed a similar sentiment on Friday, telling reporters that it’s too early to determine if an intelligence failure was responsible, but noted, “That’s exactly the kind of questions we should be asking ourselves.”