There are many unanswered questions about an attack on U.S. and Niger troops this month, in which five soldiers were killed. Very little has been revealed about their mission, or the circumstances of their deaths.
The incident is now the subject of a top-level Pentagon investigation. CGTN’S Daniel Ryntjes reports.
Reports indicate that the group of U.S. Green Berets accompanying Nigerien forces had just completed a meeting with local villagers and were walking back to join their convoy of vehicles. They were ambushed by a group of around 50 heavily militants carrying small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The U.S. Special Forces troops took cover and returned fire.
The assailants were members of a group calling itself the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, an ISIL affiliate. French military helicopters and a private American aviation contractor jointly carried out evacuations.
Later, it was revealed that Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was left behind.
After a slow response by the President in publicly acknowledging their sacrifice, Donald Trump has since been subject to a storm of controversy over a condolence call he made to Sgt. Johnson’s widow, who was reportedly told that he “knew what he signed up for”. The White House has denied that the President behaved with insensitivity in that call.
In all, four Green Berets were killed and two were wounded.
Now, members of Congress from both parties are demanding answers. Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam and the current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said information on the attack had effectively been blocked.
The incident has focused attention on the U.S. operation there, with around 800 troops in that country alone. Questions are now being raised about whether those troops and others operating covertly in Africa have proper aerial support for evacuations.
The ambush has become the deadliest assault on U.S. combat troops since President Trump took office. U.S. Defense Secretary General James Mattis said they are investigating, insisting “we’re not complacent; we’re going to do better.”