Pentagon: No one failure to blame for deaths in US, Niger soldier ambush

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Chief of Staff for US Africa Command Major General Roger Cloutier Jr. speaks during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on May 10, 2018, on the results of the investigation into the October 4, 2017 ambush on US soldiers in Niger. (AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON)

No single cause, and instead a series of contributing factors, led to the deadly attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces in Tongo Tongo last October, according to a report summarized Thursday by the Pentagon.
CGTN’s Daniel Ryntjes reports on the Pentagon’s findings.

“The direct cause of the enemy attack in Tongo Tongo, is that the enemy achieved tactical surprise there, and our forces were outnumbered there approximately three to one,” Major General Roger Cloutier, the lead investigating officer, said.

The report details that three U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed during the main part of the firefight, and Staff Sergeant La David Johnson managed to run 960 meters (over 1,000 yards) before he was killed.

Another factor in the incident, according to the report summary, was a U.S. commander mistakenly ordering an attempt to go after a local ISIL leader.

“Had the first mission been properly characterized, it would have been required to have been approved at a higher level. And by being approved at a higher level it would have received more oversight from the chain of command,” Major General Cloutier said. “That higher level chain of command would have decided what resources were required to support the mission.”

The unit was not properly equipped, had not properly trained as a team, was not prepared for this mission, and was not able to effectively communicate with the Nigerien forces, the summary states.

General Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said they have now adopted a more prudent strategic approach across the chain of command, improved equipment, and enhanced the availability of armored vehicles.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has now directed General Waldhauser to take immediate steps to address shortfalls, and has given senior leaders four months to complete a review and lay out a plan for additional changes.