In October, a military mission in Niger resulted in the deaths of four U.S. Special Forces troops and has since been surrounded by piles of controversy. From the dear president feuding with the widow of one of the soldiers who was killed during the operation, to a blatant lack of solid reasoning for the deaths of the soldiers, a lot of questions were raised about what exactly took place in Niger.
The squad of 12 U.S. soldiers were traveling with a group of 30 Nigerian soldiers, it was reported, when they were attacked by ISIS-affiliated fighters on motorcycles, who were far more heavily armed than them, with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and heavy machine guns. During the hours-long ensuing battle, two American soldiers were wounded and four killed. Five Nigerians also were killed.
The soldiers entered what was considered to be a “red one,” one that had been labeled out of bounds by the U.S. This area is known to be a hotbed for militants. However, this is not something the soldiers had sufficient information on at the time of the operation, which has sparked many claims that negligent errors were made, but it is unclear as to who made the decisions.
According to U.S. rules of engagement, troops may only accompany Nigeriens when it is considered “unlikely” that they will see action. In the past year, however, in the same area, there have been 46 militant attacks. Knowing this, you would think the soldiers would be prepared for the possibility of what was to come, yet they traveled in unarmoured trucks and were insufficiently armed for the level of risk the area held.
Many officials who are familiar with missions such as this one told BuzzFeed that they were not even sure the mission should have happened at all, due to the delicate nature of the situation. When asked for a comment on the findings of a new report, which suggests the soldier’s deaths were easily preventable and were caused by an improperly executed mission to collect information, the spokesperson for the Department of Defense declined to comment.
However, in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed the spokesperson stated:
‘The investigation is exploring issues of policy, procedures, resources, doctrine, training, judgment, leadership, or valor central to this incident. The Department of Defense will always strive [to] ensure our forces are properly equipped and have the necessary capabilities to accomplish their mission and defeat any threat.’
Donald Bolduc, a retired general who led Socafrica until June, doesn’t believe that any of the protection or planning you’d typically see in a mission of this sort, was there, starting in October:
‘That’s not how it’s done. The resources and planning didn’t seem to be there for that kind of operation.’
A Nigerien army general who was briefed on the matters that took place in Niger stated:
‘You could call it negligence. They were moving around in a zone owned by militants. They let their guard down. There are a dozen villages around the frontier with Mali. The enemy took advantage of informants in these villages’
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