Niger attack leaves 4 US soldiers dead: What to know

The Pentagon’s investigation into how exactly four American service members were killed last month in Niger won’t be completed until at least January, it said this week.

Four U.S. soldiers were killed last month by Islamic militants who attacked their convoy in Africa with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. The body of one soldier was not found for two days.

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 Nigerien troops, killing four American servicemen and wounding two others on Oct. 4. 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. They were ambushed by ISIS-affiliated militants traveling by vehicle.

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Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed last month 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.

What else should you know?

The Defense Department is investigating the attack, and an Army investigation team will travel to numerous locations in the U.S., Africa and Europe to gather information.  

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. 

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.

But the presence of American soldiers in Niger has reignited a debate about the Authorization for Use of Military Force – a public law enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At issue is whether the law gives the president the authority to take action against all terrorist organizations, not just Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

What was the White House's response?

The White House has been widely criticized for its response to the attack – especially in the delay in acknowledging the ambush.

Trump, too, was 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. Kelly, whose Marine son died in Afghanistan, added that the president did the best he could in the situation.

Because of the White House’s response to the attack, it’s been called “the president’s Benghazi” by some Democrats, referencing the controversial attack in 2012 that left four American service members dead. 

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.