Niger ambush that killed 4 US soldiers came after 'massive intelligence failure'

Congress is demanding answers about what happened  

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Friday 20 October 2017 23:35
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US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks about the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger earlier this month as he meets with his Israeli counterpart at the Pentagon on 19 October 2017.
US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks about the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger earlier this month as he meets with his Israeli counterpart at the Pentagon on 19 October 2017.

The ambush in Niger that led to the deaths of four US soldiers is said to have partially been the result of a “massive intelligence failure”.

Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, Dustin Wright, and Sergeant La David T Johnson died and two others were injured when 40 to 50 militants ambushed a 12-man US force in Niger on October 4, according to the Pentagon.

Congress now has questions about the scope of the US mission in Niger as well as why the Green Beret-led team was without sufficient support to fight off the attack, which is believed to have been carried out by a local terror group that claims association with Isis.

In the ensuing rescue operation to get the US soldiers out of the area during a firefight with the militants, it appears Mr Johnson’s body was left behind.

His body was only recovered 48 hours later – found by Nigerian nationals – and returned the US.

In an interview with NBC, a senior congressional aide who was briefed on the matter said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground in Niger.

There was no US overhead surveillance of the mission, he told NBC, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If French fighter jets had not arrived, he said, the situation could have been much worse for Americans.

The aide spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity.

Senator John McCain had recently expressed frustration about the lack of details emerging from the Pentagon about the incident in Niger.

On Thursday, Defence Secretary James Mattis said that the Pentagon does not “have all the accurate information yet” regarding the ambush. The FBI is also investigating the incident.

The bureau told the Wall Street Journal it is not uncommon for it to get involved in these types of military investigations.

During a White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether the White House believed there was a “massive intelligence failure” in Niger.

“We're going to wait until that review is complete by the Department of Defense, and we'll answer those questions at that time,” Ms Sanders replied.

Earlier in the briefing, she said: “The Department of Defense has initiated a review, which occurs any time there's an American that's killed in action. We're going through that process. The President, the Department of Defense, and, frankly, the entire country and government want to know exactly what happened.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a retired Marine General, said on Thursday that “an investigation doesn’t mean anything was wrong ... doesn’t mean that heads are going to roll.”

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