In early October, four U.S. soldiers were killed during an ambush (understood to be ISIS-affiliated in nature) in Niger. Sadly, public commentary on the tragedy turned political after Trump’s bizarre claim that he’s better at consoling families of U.S. soldiers than Obama is. The answer to that question easily surfaced when grieving families of fallen soldiers proved the president wrong, as did Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Setting that distraction aside, questions now surround what really happened to those Green Berets in Niger.
The Pentagon has launched an investigation, which might not yield answers for weeks, if not months. Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — a noted Trump adversary but also the head of the Senate Armed Services Committee — is demanding even more scrutiny. McCain wants “all the details,” but as it turns out, there are many more questions than answers here:
What Are U.S. Troops Doing In Niger? U.S. military officials consider Niger — which holds key transit routes used by both ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates — to be a crucial operation point in the war on terror. As such, President Obama first deployed troops to the country in 2013. The number of U.S. troops in Niger has since risen to 800, and small U.S. Special Forces units are often used to train and advise Nigerian troops on fighting terror groups including al Qaeda and Boko Haram.
The Initially Reported Ambush Details And Resulting Confusion: Initially, the New York Times reported that the attack occurred while about a dozen U.S. soldiers were conducting a supposedly “low risk” operation — meaning that team leaders didn’t expect to encounter hostile activity — alongside Nigerian soldier trainees north of the Nigerian capital of Niamey. Defense Secretary James Mattis has since expressed frustration about the lack of details he’s received to supplement publicly known reports. Other U.S. officials told CNN that the fight was an unexpected one, which painted a “scene of confusion.”