Report finds multiple failures leading to Niger attack
WASHINGTON (AP) — Multiple failures are to blame for the Niger ambush that killed four U.S. service members last October, the Pentagon said today, citing insufficient training and preparation as well as the team's deliberate decision to go after a high-level Islamic State group insurgent without proper command approval.
A report summary released today includes recommendations to improve mission planning and approval procedures, re-evaluate equipment and weapons requirements, and review training that U.S. commandos conduct with partner forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis directed Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, 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.
At a Pentagon news conference, Waldhauser said he takes responsibility for what happened.
"I take ownership of all the events connected to the ambush of 4 October," he told reporters. "Again, the responsibility is mine."
Waldhauser said changes have already been made in the way military activities are carried out in Niger and elsewhere in Africa.
"We are now far more prudent on our missions," the general said.
The summary lays out a confusing chain of events that unfolded on Oct. 3-4, ending in a lengthy, brutal firefight as 46 U.S. and Nigerien forces battled for their lives against more than 100 enemy fighters.
Amid the chaos, it identifies repeated acts of bravery as the outnumbered and outgunned soldiers risked their lives to protect and rescue each other during the more than hourlong assault.
"This investigation identifies individual, organizational, and institutional failures and deficiencies that contributed to the tragic events of 4 October 2017," the summary said. But it concludes that "although the report details the compounding impact of tactical and operational decisions, no single failure or deficiency was the sole reason for the events of 4 October 2017."