A new report details how a worldwide oversight in the War on Terror helped lead to the deaths of four U.S. service members in Niger last October — the largest loss of American troops during combat in Africa since the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” debacle in Somalia.
According to the report Sunday in The New York Times, a series of intelligence failures and strategic miscalculations left the Americans far from base, in territory of Islamic extremists longer than planned, with no backup or air support, on a mission in a remote stretch of West Africa that they had not been expected to perform.
Defense Department officials insisted, according to The Times, that the soldiers — outnumbered and outgunned by fighters loyal to the Islamic State terror network — were in Niger simply to train, advise and assist the country’s military. The ambush killed Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson — who were lightly equipped, with few heavy weapons and no bulletproof vehicles.
The Pentagon's official report on what happened is still under review, the Times reported. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the investigation runs “thousands of pages.”
A draft of the report has called for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa and to strip commanders in the field of authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols, The Times reported.
The Times also reported the final moments of Staff Sgt. Black, Staff Sgt. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Wright were recorded.
The body of Sgt. Johnson was recovered in November, as Fox News previously reported.
Johnson’s death also fueled a political fight between President Donald Trump and Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who accused the president of telling Myeshia Johnson her husband “knew what he signed up for,” and alleged Trump didn’t appear to know Johnson’s name during a phone call. The story was later backed up by Johnson’s aunt.
Trump hit back at Wilson and tweeted she “fabricated” his statement. He later called the congresswoman “wacky” and accused her of “SECRETELY” listening to the phone call. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also defended Trump and said he was “stunned” and “brokenhearted” that the event turned into a public and political spectacle.