Staff sergeant. Aaron J. Jenne / U.S. Air Force through AP
A Pentagon report found that Islamic extremists ambushed and killed four US soldiers in Niger last October after a series of false steps that left Americans exposed and vulnerable in a remote corner of the African nation .
report to Congress and military officers have begun to inform families of soldiers who were killed. The report was not publicly disclosed, but rather an official who saw him describe NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman.
The mission began on October 3, when 12 Americans, led by Green Berets, joined a larger force of Nigerian troops in a routine patrol in the southwestern part of the country, near the border with Mali.
Americans have been in Niger since 2013 to train, advise and assist the Nigerian army in its battle against extremists linked to the Islamic State. It is assumed that Americans should not engage in fighting unless they are attacked.
In the mission, US and Nigerian forces met with the village leaders.
The troops spent the night, and instead of returning to their base the next day, they were given a new mission. They were called to look for intelligence information in a place where a militant leader had apparently fled.
According to the official who saw the report, a lower-ranking official signed this new mission and did not keep up with the higher-ranking officers. aware of it or were not aware of the change in the plans.
The US team UU I did not expect any contact with the militants, and I did not have the proper planning, training or firepower.
Ambushed by 50 extremists
But US and Nigerian forces were ambushed and were overwhelmed by about 50 fighters in a two-hour gun battle in the town of Tongo Tongo.
The four Americans killed were the Staff Sergeant. Bryan Black, staff sergeant Dustin Wright, staff sergeant Jeremiah Johnson and sergeant David Johnson. Two more Americans were injured and five Nigerian soldiers were killed.
The report says that the soldiers fought bravely. There was a video with a helmet camera that showed some of the soldiers pulling injured comrades to safety behind an SUV.
The report does not blame or ask for punishment. But he says there were failures at multiple levels, and demands that they be directed by the Army and the Special Operations Command.
President Barack Obama sent US troops to Niger five years ago, and it is believed that about 800 are in the country. The Americans are building a base for drones, but they do not have a large aerodrome for manned aircraft that can mount a rescue mission.
Niger and other African countries want training and experience from the US UU To face security threats, but do not want a large and visible American presence.
Until the American deaths in Niger, the US military presence. UU He received little attention.
The New York Times reported that on December 6, two months after the October ambush, another group of Green Berets and Nigerien forces killed 11 militants in a shootout. The US military UU They did not announce the fight at that time. But the Times reported it on March 14, qualifying it as one of 10 previously undisclosed clashes in West Africa since 2015.