“Why do we have troops in Niger?” seemed to be the head-scratching question coming from journalists and Twitter pundits in the wake of an ambush by the terrorist group Islamic State of the Greater Sahara that left four U.S. soldiers dead and a nation searching for answers.
But before the men could even be laid to rest and properly honored for giving their lives for their country, President Trump was ad libbing from the podium and a Democratic member of Congress was running to the media.
Just as Hurricane Irma was declared “Trump’s Katrina” and the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in our presidential election became “Trump’s Watergate,” the left is eager to the point of giving themselves away in declaring that the deadly attack in Niger is now “Trump’s Benghazi”
CNN political commentator Keith Boykin, also a former White House aide to Bill Clinton, declared on Twitter: “Four Americans killed in Africa (Benghazi) in 2012: GOP outrage & investigations. Four Americans killed in Africa (Niger) in 2017: Silence.”
Huffington Post contributor Marcus H. Johnson also stated: “If Niger happened under President Hillary Clinton it would be Benghazi.”
Newsweek culled a series of tweets from pundits on the left with the headline “Trump's response to four U.S. soldiers killed in Niger is already being compared to Benghazi”
Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, who seems willing to talk to anyone holding a microphone or camera these days, told CNN: “This might wind up to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi.”
She then proceeded to repeat the same talking point on her phone in appearance on “The View,” saying: “This is going to be Mr. Trump’s Benghazi because I cannot get the answers.”
MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid went on a two-day quest on Twitter seeking an answer to the question of why U.S. troops were in Niger and near the Mali border to begin with. She wrote: “Again: why are US troops in Niger? And why haven’t the relevant Republican committee chairs scheduled hearings?”
Reid called for hearings again in a later tweet: “Did you know we have 800 troops in Niger? And why was Staff Sgt. Johnson’s body not found initially? Hearings?” She continued with: “Also, where are all the Benghazi obsessives now that we have lost for (sic) special forces troops in Niger? Anyone? Hearings? Any interest at all?”
To respectfully answer Reid’s questions, the Benghazi obsessives are nowhere to be found on Niger because what happened in Niger couldn’t be further from the facts of what happened on the ground in Benghazi.
U.S. special forces arrived in Niger in January 2013 on the orders of President Obama. They were then followed by about a 100 military personnel and advisers with the intention of conducting unmanned reconnaissance missions over Mali in conjunction with French military forces to continue a broad-based escalation of operations in the region from as early as 2005.
In a letter to Congress, President Obama stated: “This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region” as part of a Status Forces Agreement signed that previous January 2013.
Reuters reported in February 2013: “France intervened in Mali, which borders Niger, last month as Islamist forces, who seized control of the north in the confusion following a military coup in March 2012, pushed towards the capital Bamako. That lifted Mali to the forefront of U.S. and European security concerns, with fears the Islamists would turn the country into a base for international attacks.”
In the attack in Niger that killed Army Sergeant La David Johnson and Staff Sergeants Bryan C. Black, Dustin M. Wright and Jeremiah W. Johnson earlier this month, intelligence is still very basic due to the highly sensitive and classified nature of operations. However, the four soldiers were believed to be on a reconnaissance training mission for Niger forces there, to counter a rising insurgency with ISIS affiliates.
Esquire reported in a story by Robert Bateman: “Not only were Black, Wright, Johnson, and Johnson killed, but two other American soldiers were seriously wounded. The (military) spokesperson confirmed to me that they have been evacuated to the Army hospital at Landstuhl, Germany. Both are suffering from gunshot wounds, not shrapnel from IEDs or a mine. When pressed, he as much as confirmed that situation when he acknowledged that the vehicles were unarmored. In other words, this was not an ambush of a foot patrol along a dusty path or on a jungle trail; these troops were hit by complete surprise when their convoy was taken under fire along a road.”
The two looming questions that remain are: Why there was no air reconnaissance at the time of the ambush? How were the whereabouts of the soldiers known to insurgents?
These were not civilians left to die in a burning embassy for almost 13 hours with no rescue, nor were any of the four men an ambassador, as happened in Benghazi. There were no questions about the president’s whereabouts during the attack in Niger. To this day we still don’t know where President Obama was in the White House or what his orders were regarding the personnel stranded there.
Testimony given to the House Select Committee on Benghazi states President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued “clear orders to deploy military assets,” yet no assets were ever deployed and these questions were never asked by journalists at the time, nor answered by President Obama.
In the wake of the attack, the Trump administration’s response, as perplexing and delayed as it might have been, did not point the finger at a video on YouTube. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not issue a short statement blaming an “awful internet video.” No member of the State or Defense Departments, or a White House official, has appeared on four Sunday morning TV shows and declared the attack in Niger began as a spontaneous reaction to an internet video.
And finally for all of President Trump’s belligerent tweeting at NFL football players and the “Fake News” media over the course of the 12 days after the attack, until the time he made that disputed phone call to Sgt. Johnson’s widow, he hadn’t tweeted “what difference at this point does it make?” how these four brave young men died.
The Benghazi investigation did not originate because four Americans were killed in a terrorist attack against a U.S. consulate in an unstable and dangerous part of the world. It metastasized because of the Obama administration’s obfuscation into the cause of the attack and the compounding misinformation being relayed to the public in the months and years afterward.
This is not Benghazi, and the shameful part about this is that the news media and Rep. Wilson all know it isn’t. But in attempting to link the current administration to the controversy of the previous one, they are tacitly admitting a hard truth: there were too many unanswered questions and statements that didn’t add up with the Obama administration and Benghazi, and that’s not a road I’m sure any of them want to travel down (again).
Instead, what is happening is a rapidly developing narrative in real time, compounded by claims from a new Democratic “rock star” who the media-at-large are all too happy to put on camera to create a scene at the expense of the four men who lost their lives.
If the news media and lawmakers want to debate the continued presence of troops in Niger and the African continent, that’s a debate worth having. That debate will include the hundreds of troops that previous presidents have deployed there. And that will have to include a very uncomfortable discussion for Democrats and the anti-war left, who sleepwalked through eight years of escalating military presence in that region of the world.
This may come as a shocking surprise to those who ignored these conflicts in the most unstable parts of the world at the expense of protecting a former president’s legacy, but those aren’t hashtags doing the kind of work on the ground in places like Niger and Mali. They are selfless Americans who volunteered to be there. And they should not be exploited or forgotten.