When four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in the central African country of Niger, the Trump administration began a very controlled release of information. Now politicians in his own party and members of his cabinet are calling for answers to many of the questions that still surround the tragic incident.
Key among them is Defense Secretary James Mattis, CNN claims. Senior US defense officials spoke with CNN Wednesday and said “Mattis is dismayed at the lack of detailed information he has received about about the attack.”
An investigation is being carried out by US Africa Command, and Mattis is reportedly content to allow their investigation the room it needs to find the answers, but he, like many others, isn’t satisfied with the current explanations.
“This was a hard fight, this was a very tough fight,” Mattis told reporters last week — providing little detail about what multiple US officials have described to CNN as a scene of confusion on the ground during an unexpected firefight.
Four U.S. soldiers, all Green Berets, were killed in the ambush. Two others were wounded. The insurgents who ambushed the men were from ISIS in the Greater Sahara.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright died during, or from injuries sustained during the October 4 attack.
The death of the fourth soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson, remains a mystery. Sgt. Johnson was separated from the other troops and was missing in action until his remains were found 48 hours later in the northern part of the country.
The 12 U.S. soldiers were meeting local forces combating the terrorists. As the meeting ended, they were moving back toward unarmored pickup trucks when 50 ISIS fighters opened fire.
The fire fight reportedly lasted more than half an hour, and was only broken up when French Mirage jets flew in to disperse the ISIS fighters.
The remaining U.S. forces were then picked up in helicopters operated by a private contractor, Berry Aviation.
As soon as it was discovered that Sgt. La David Johnson was missing, a search and rescue operation involving U.S., French, and Nigerian forces was launched.
“This was not expected,” US Africa Command spokesman Army Col. Mark Cheadle said. “Had we anticipated this sort of attack we would have absolutely devoted more resources to it to reduce the risk and that’s something we are looking at right now.”
There are more than 800 U.S. troops in Niger. They’ve been in the country for 5 years assisting local forces combat a rise in terrorism.
“We do have information on the group that did it, their nature, their disposition and so on and so forth and appropriate organizations within the United States military are digging deeper into that and will take appropriate action if required,” Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said in a press conference.
Though Secretary Mattis has asked for answers, he’s defended the way the operation was handled. When a reporter asked if the 30 minute window indicated that a rescue was slow in arriving, Mattis bristled. “I completely reject the idea that that was slow,” he said. “We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now? Should we have been in a better stance?”
When more information becomes available, we’ll post an update. Until then, the questions remain unanswered.