New Details In US Troops Ambush In Niger Revealed
The US troops attacked in Niger were on their way back from a reconnaissance mission when they were ambushed by 50 ISIS fighters, according to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who provided a timeline of the attack yesterday.
Investigators continue to work on the details of what occurred more than two weeks after four US and five Nigerian soldiers were killed and two Americans were wounded in the attack which occurred on October 4.
During the Pentagon briefing, Dunford clarified the troops waited up to an hour before calling in for support, “My judgment would be that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support. And so well we’ll find out in the investigation exactly why it took an hour for them to call.”
Remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead within minutes of the request for help, French Mirage jets one hour later — two hours after the troops made initial contact with enemy forces.
“I don’t have any indication right now to believe or to know that they did anything other than operating within the orders that they were given,” Dunford said. “That’s what the investigation’s all about.” So I think anyone that speculates about what special operations forces did or didn’t do is doing exactly that, they’re speculating.”
Still, Dunford said the military will be investigating if the planned reconnaissance mission changed.
“It was planned as a reconnaissance mission. What happened after they began to execute, in other words, did the mission change? That is one of the questions that’s being asked. It’s a fair question but I can’t tell you definitively the answer to that question. But, yes, we’ve seen the reports, we’ve seen the speculation,” he said.
One US soldier, Sgt. La David Johnson was separated from his 12-member team during the ambush, and his body was recovered 48 hours later nearly a mile away from the scene in Niger.
“I think we owe the families and American people transparency,” Dunford said.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain has criticized the Pentagon and Trump administration for not being forthcoming about the attack, threatening a subpoena, and Defense Secretary James Mattis went to Capitol Hill on Friday to meet with both McCain and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“One of the fights I’m having with the administration is the armed services committee is not getting enough information,” McCain said Monday on ABC’s “The View.” “We deserve it.”
In the aftermath of the ambush, several key lawmakers have said they didn’t know the US had troops in Niger.
“I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.
But the Pentagon and White House have previously notified Congress about the US mission in Niger several times this year.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters last week that US, French and Nigerian forces “never left the battlefield” until Johnson was found.
Previous reports stated French Mirage jets arrived overhead within 30 minutes of the firefight to fly low passes in an attempt to disperse the attackers did not have permission to drop bombs. But on Friday, US officials said that French jets did have authority to bomb but did not because pilots could not readily identify enemy forces in this firefight and did not want to risk hitting the US and Nigerian troops.
Monday’s Pentagon briefing with Dunford offers a particularly striking change of tone from the public response of the Trump administration in the wake of the Niger attack.
President Donald Trump’s response to the attack has drawn some criticism, particularly his public feud with a Democratic congresswoman over a condolence call he made to Johnson’s widow.
On Monday, Trump tweeted shortly after Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, discussed her disappointment with the call on “Good Morning America” Monday morning, saying the President stumbled on her husband’s name and suggesting the only reason he knew it was because the report was right in front of him.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) October 23, 2017
“I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from the beginning, without hesitation!” Trump tweeted.
Former U.S. Army Special Operations member Jason Beardsley spoke on the matter Tuesday citing it as a “chaotic ambush in a remote austere environment.”