Niger report highlights bravery, notes training, planning deficiencies — DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Members of the 3rd Special Forces Group 2nd battalion salute the casket of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson at his burial service in Hollywood Florida on Oct. 21. Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4

Pentagon set for public briefing on deadly Niger mission

Multiple "individual, organizational, and institutional failures" were to blame for the deaths of four US soldiers past year in Niger, but no disciplinary action is being recommended for those involved, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

"The direct cause of the enemy attack in Tongo Tongo is that the enemy achieved tactical surprise there and our forces were outnumbered approximately three-to-one", U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr., Africom's chief of staff and the investigating officer, briefed Pentagon reporters today on the results.

As a result of the October incident, US forces in Africa would now be more "prudent" in carrying out missions and improvements have been made for troops in areas such as firepower and equipment, response times and level of intelligence provided, Waldhauser said.

Army Sergeant La David Johnson and Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright were killed in the ensuing firefight. "All four Soldiers were killed in action before French or Nigerien responding forces arrived in Tongo Tongo".

The Americans who were killed "gave their last full measure of devotion to our country and died with honor while actively engaging the enemy", the report said. Officials spent months trying to unravel the complex incident, conducting dozens of interviews across the U.S., Europe and Africa. He did not name them.

When asked if any of the USA troops who fought in Niger should be considered for the Medal of Honor, Waldhauser replied: "I don't have that level of detail at this point in time".

The report did not assign blame, but said recommendations had been made to U.S. Special Operations Command on actions that could be taken against personnel.

The investigation has already triggered changes in the way military activities are carried out in Niger and elsewhere in Africa, including giving teams the option to use heavily armored vehicles and beefed-up firepower.

Officials said contrary to some earlier reports, none of the US forces were captured before they were killed, though the IS-linked fighters did strip their bodies of serviceable equipment.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told the head of U.S. Africa Command to take immediate steps to address shortfalls, and has given senior leaders four months to complete a review and lay out a plan for additional changes.

"This investigation identifies individual, organizational and institutional failures and deficiencies that contributed to the tragic events of October 4, 2017", the report said.

USA forces reportedly did not have time to coach collectively earlier than they deployed and didn't do preparatory battle drills with their Nigerien companions. Most are involved in the construction of a new air base there. All 4 have been killed in Niger, when a joint patrol of American and Niger forces was ambushed by militants believed linked to the Islamic State group.

Waldhauser called the mischaracterization of the mission unacceptable, but Cloutier rejected suggestions the team leaders lied. It is not clear if these two are among the many three service members he stated might face self-discipline.

"It wasn't a deliberate intent to deceive". "It was lack of attention to detail".

The Pentagon said the dead USA troops fought bravely and "died with honor" but investigators found they had not been properly trained and that only half of the American team had trained together. It said the soldiers "did not conduct pre-mission rehearsals or battle drills with their partner force [Nigerien soldiers]" prior to the mission. The Ouallam team members were then was ordered to another location to collect intelligence also linked to Chefou, which they did without problems.

Still, Cloutier and other US military officials insist the team's mischaracterization of its intentions had little to do with the ambush at Tongo Tongo, as the members headed back to their base having found only an empty campsite.

"There is not enough evidence to conclude that the villagers of Tongo Tongo willingly aid and support them", according to the report summary. Three of the bodies were located near empty enemy vehicles, which indicated there was an attempt on the part of the terrorists to bring the bodies away with them.

Black and Wright were members of the Green Berets, while both Johnsons were conventional soldiers assigned to the same 3rd Special Forces Group team.

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