Report on Niger ambush cites multiple failures

Florence Fletcher
May 12, 2018

Quickly after leaving Tongo Tongo, about 120 miles north of Niger's capital, they have been ambushed by Islamic State-linked militants.

The report, six months in the making, includes thousands of pages of notes gathered by military investigators who returned to the site of the ambush, examining forensic evidence and talking to 143 witnesses, including 37 survivors of the ambush itself.

While the team mischaracterized this mission, the report did not find a direct link between that and the ambush that killed the four US soldiers.

At a Pentagon news conference, Waldhauser said he takes responsibility for what happened. French helicopters arrived later and evacuated the surviving U.S. Soldiers.

Johnson was not captured alive by militants or executed, U.S. military officials said Thursday, but "was killed in action while actively engaging the enemy". "It was lack of attention to detail".

A quick reaction force of Nigerien troops found the bodies of the three soldiers, Cloutier said. The team stopped at the village of Tongo Tongo and held an impromptu meeting with an elder on its way back to base, where they were ambushed by an enemy force that soon proved to be much larger than it initially appeared.

Cloutier described a chaotic firefight, as 46 US and Nigerien forces battled more than 100 enemy fighters for more than an hour.

The report, pieced together over three months of investigation, details the October 4 battle between 46 US and Nigerien forces and more than 100 enemy combatants. Waldhauser said Special Operations Command will eventually award medals for valor to the troops on the mission.

Nearly an hour later, they called again, asking for help as they were being overrun.

Army Sergeant La David Johnson and Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright were killed in the ensuing firefight.

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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAmendment to slow Space Force shot down in House defense markup Dems target Trump administration's use of military planes in defense bill debate The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by Pfizer - CIA nominee on the hot seat MORE has directed Waldhauser to complete in four months a review of shortfalls in training, procedures and planning. La David Johnson during his burial service at the Memorial Gardens East cemetery on October 21, 2017 in Hollywood, Florida.

"All of our soldiers fought valiantly that day", he said. Two other American soldiers - Sgt. 1st Class Brent Bartels and David Trachtenberg, a senior defense official - were injured.

The executive summary said the Green Beret unit, known as Operational Detachment-Alpha Team 3212, departed from its base on a counterterrorism mission in the vicinity of Tiloa, Niger.

The report concludes that although the enemy can move freely around the village area, "there is not enough evidence to conclude that the villagers of Tongo Tongo willingly (without duress) aid and support them".

Waldhauser said the report, which has not yet been made public in full, singles out three individuals whose actions could be faulted.

Robert Karem, the assistant defense secretary for global security affairs, who also spoke, said there are about 800 US troops in Niger, and that none are supposed to be engaged in direct combat.

"I believe that the troops who were sadly killed in Niger in October of 2017 were engaged in a mission that they were not authorized by law to participate in and that they were not trained to participate in, and that is a significant reason that they tragically lost their lives", said Kaine.

President Donald Trump's handling of condolence messages to the families of the dead US soldiers has been criticized by lawmakers in Washington and raised the profile of the deadly incident.

Both Waldhauser and Cloutier emphasized that USA troops fought bravely during the ambush and indicated that some service members will be recognized for their valior under fire.

But officials also praised what they called "numerous acts of extraordinary bravery" by USA forces as they stared down the much larger IS-linked force.

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