By Fox News
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military still has to investigate a number of issues surrounding the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger.
Four U.S. servicemembers 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.
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 servicemen and wounding two others. Approximately 10 Nigerien troops were also killed.
The 12-member team was reportedly in unarmored trucks when the ambush occurred on a return route from the capital city of Niamey.
The team was reportedly ambushed by about 50 ISIS-affiliated militants traveling by vehicle, carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Oct. 23 that air support wasn’t requested for the attack area until an hour after the ambush began. It took two French Mirage fighter jets 30 minutes to respond to the request, and the jets weren’t overhead until two hours after the battle began.
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. Sgt. Johnson’s body wasn’t found until two days after the attack by Nigerien forces, which transferred his body to the U.S. military.
What else should you know?
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11 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.
Dunford acknowledged on Oct. 23 that details on the attack have not been forthcoming.
Dunford said the military still needs to investigate several matters, including: whether the U.S. had adequate intelligence and equipment for its operation, whether there was a planning failure and why it took so long to recover Sgt. Johnson’s body.
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., said.
Why are troops in Niger?
U.S. forces have been in Niger for more than 20 years and a joint special operations task force was created by the U.S. in 2008.
In 2011, U.S. and French forces set up a counterterrorism force in the country, led by the French, with 4,000 troops and 35,000 Nigerien troops. There are now 800 U.S. troops in Niger and 6,000 U.S. troops within 53 countries in Africa, according to Gen. Dunford.
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 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, Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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