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Pentagon, lawmakers demand more information on deadly Niger raid
Defense officials and lawmakers resolved Thursday to get to the bottom of how and why four U.S. troops died in an ambush earlier this month in Niger. A fact-finding team has deployed to the region, while the Senate Armed Services Committee threatens to issue subpoenas.
By Paul Pate
Feb 17, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. — Unanswered questions linger over an ambush in Niger that killed four dead U.S. soldiers earlier this month, according to Pentagon and White House officials. A team of investigators has deployed to west Africa on a fact-finding mission, as Defense Secretary James Mattis demands a timeline of how the attack transpired.

"We need to find out what happened and why," White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

The ambush occurred October 4 and was apparently the work of militants aligned with the Islamic State. They shot and killed four U.S. special-forces personnel assigned to Special Operational Detachment Alpha, making the incident the deadliest attack on U.S. troops since President Trump took office. But the Pentagon has yet to form a clear "story board" of the facts surrounding the case.

Commanders usually gather and share these facts very quickly after such incidents, according to senior Pentagon officials and lawmakers who said that the lag in information-gathering in this case suggests incompetence.

Questions include whether intelligence failures made the U.S. personnel vulnerable to an attack, why support units were not at hand to aid them, and why one dead U.S. soldier was initially left behind. An official said that the ambushed unit had been operating in areas far from command support and that the U.S. military had tried for months leading up to the attack to obtain surveillance aircraft but were blocked by the U.S. ambassador to Niger.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is also investigating the incident. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), committee chairman, said Thursday that the committee may issue subpoenas to get to the bottom of what happened.