The Pentagon is investigating whether US soldiers in Niger were lured into ambush

Special forces green beretsUS ArmyUS Army Green Berets make elevation adjustments during an urban stress-shoot on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
  • A senior congressional aide says that a “massive intelligence failure” may have played a role in the Niger ambush that led to the deaths of four US soldiers.
  • The Defence Department is looking into whether the soldiers were being delayed and lured into an ambush, multiple news outlets reported.

The ambush that resulted in the deaths of four US service members in Niger earlier in October has been attributed in part to a “massive intelligence failure,” a senior congressional aide told NBC News.

About 40 to 50 ISIS-affiliated militants reportedly ambushed a 12-person squad of US soldiers, killing three Green Berets and one soldier near the Niger-Mali border. Two others were wounded during the assault.

The operation, meant to establish relations with local leaders, was believed to be low-risk, and was viewed as routine after being done about 30 times in recent months, the military said, according to NBC News.

The aide also said US forces did not have ample overhead surveillance support and no quick-reaction force — an emergency-response team — for the mission. French fighter jets, which reportedly arrived within 30 minutes of the call going out, played a crucial role in the fight, according to the aide.

US Army Special Forces Niger exercise training AfricaUS Army/Sgt. 1st Class Christopher KluttsA US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Niger army soldier during marksmanship training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, February 28, 2017.

A diplomat said that French officials were frustrated with the mission, particularly because they had limited intelligence and no contingency plans, Reuters reported.

Although multiple Defence Department offices have launched investigations into the incident, the aide noted that one of the scenarios being looked into was whether the US soldiers were intentionally delayed in the village they were visiting. He said that the soldiers were pursuing men on motorcycles, who lured them into the ambush, according to NBC News. There, they were met with rocket-propelled grenades and improvised vehicles outfitted for war.

Another report suggested that the soldiers were ambushed while walking back to their unarmored vehicles, following their meeting with the village leaders. According to a defence official, some of the soldiers who attended the meeting suspected that they were being stalled and delayed by the villagers, CNN reported.

On Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that although he couldn’t give details on the attack, the soldiers had “died in the defence of America.”

“This war is getting hot in places where it’s cool,” Graham said. “The American public needs to get ready for more operations. We’re gonna be more aggressive.”

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