According to Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford, who spoke before press on Monday, the US troops involved in the ambush in Niger more than two weeks ago were on their way back to their operating base when they were attacked by 50 ISIS fighters.
In the attack, four US soldiers were killed and two more were wounded that occurred on October 4. Five Nigerian soldiers were also killed. Dunford said that after an hour of fighting, the US troops called for additional support, according to CNN.
Within minutes, remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead. An hour later – two hours into the firefight – French Mirage jets arrived on scene. Dunford explained to the press what might have happened.
“It’s important to note when they didn’t ask for support for that first hour, my judgment would be that that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support,” he said. “And so well we’ll find out in the investigation exactly why it took an hour for them to call.”
Dunford also explained that according to his information, there was no indication that the US troops were operating outside of their orders during the time of the ambush.
“I don’t have any indication right now to believe or to know that they did anything other than operate within the orders that they were given,” he said. “That’s what the investigation’s all about. So I think anyone that speculates about what special operations did or didn’t do is doing exactly that, they’re speculating.”
Dunford added that the investigation would uncover whether the mission of the US troops changed or was altered due to the firefight with the ISIS troops. The initial mission was for reconnaissance, he said.
“It was planned as a reconnaissance mission. What happened after they began to execute, in other words, did the mission change? That is one of the questions that’s being asked. It’s a fair question but I can’t tell you definitely the answer to that question. But, yes, we’ve seen the reports, we’ve seen the speculation,” he said.
According to The Washington Post, the four slain soldiers were Staff Sergeant Dustin M. Wright, 29, Staff Sergeant Bryan C. Black, 35, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, and Staff Sergeant La David Johnson, 25. Controversy has embroiled the Trump administration for the president’s call to the widow of Johnson. Johnson’s body was recovered 48 hours after the firefight and was found nearly a mile away from the central scene.
According to CNN, the Pentagon is looking into the events surrounding John’s separation from his unit. In the aftermath, the Pentagon said, dozens of US forces were moved quickly to Niger’s capital to be ready to go into the field, while the search for Johnson’s body commenced immediately.
Lawmakers have criticized the Trump administration for its lack of transparency in the events of the ambush. Senator McCain, often a critic of Trump’s policies, spoke Monday on ABC’s “The View” that both he and the American people deserve to know what happened in that ambush.
“One of the fights I’m having with the administration is the armed services committee is not getting enough information,” said McCain. “We deserve it.”
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