Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate armed services committee, said he doesn’t think the White House has been “forthcoming” about the deadly attack on American troops earlier this month.
Four U.S. service members were killed on Oct. 4 in Niger by Islamic militants, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns.
From President Donald Trump’s calls to the families of the deceased to the White House’s delayed response to the ambush, details about the attack have drawn intense scrutiny and criticism – and not just from McCain.
What do we know about the attack?
About 50 Islamic extremists attacked a group of American and Niger troops on Oct. 4, killing four American soldiers and wounding two others. Nearly 10 Niger troops were also killed.
The 12-member team was reportedly in unarmored trucks when the ambush occurred. They had just met with local leaders.
No extremist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to be the work of the Islamic State of the Sahel, a splinter group of extremists loyal to the Islamic State group based in Mali, just across the border.
Details about the attack are still few, but the militant group was reportedly new to the area.
Who were the Americans killed?
Sgt. La David Johnson, 25; Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson 39; and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, were killed in the attack.
The bodies of some of the Americans killed were recovered by a U.S.-contracted helicopter, a U.S. official told Fox News.
What else should you know?
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday that his department is investigating the attack.
“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” Mattis said. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”
Mattis also dismissed allegations that rescue operations were slow to respond to the attack.
U.S. Africa Command has launched an investigation into the ambush and will review whether additional security or armed support is needed for these types of missions.
“The patrol that was attacked last week had actually done 29 patrols without contact over the previous six months or so; no indication that this was going to occur. I would say that what was actually very positive about it was the fact that they were able to have close-air support overhead, about 30 minutes after first contact, which is pretty impressive,” the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., told reporters last week.
Why are troops in Niger?
For several years, American and French troops have provided training and support to the militaries of Niger and other vulnerable African countries where Islamic extremism has grown.
The White House has been widely criticized for its response to the attack – especially in the delay in acknowledging the ambush. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said earlier this week that the delay in the public acknowledgment of the attack was due to a “process that is standard protocol.”
Trump was also criticized for his public feud with a Democratic congresswoman and Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., accused Trump of making “insensitive” remarks to Myeshia Johnson.
Trump has denied Wilson’s allegations, but the mother of the deceased soldier has backed up Wilson’s claims.
White House chief of staff John Kelly said he was “heartbroken” that Wilson used the conversation she overheard to attack Trump. He added that the president did the best he could in the situation.
“If you’re not in the family, if you have never worn the uniform, if you have never been in combat, you can’t imagine how to make that phone call,” Kelly said.
Because of the White House’s response to the attack, it’s been called “the president’s Benghazi” by some Democrats, referencing the contentious attack in 2012 that left four American service members dead.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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