Top U.S. military officer seeks to address criticism of fatal Niger operation

Top U.S. military officer seeks to address criticism of fatal Niger operation
From Reuters - October 23, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer sought on Monday to tamp down criticism the Pentagon had not been forthcoming about the death of four U.S. soldiers in an ambush in Niger, providing a timeline of the incident and acknowledging unanswered questions remained.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. militarys Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the United States Africa Command was conducting an investigation into the Oct. 4 attack. Some lawmakers have criticized the Pentagon for being slow to provide answers.

Dunford acknowledged that a number of issues were still under investigation, including why U.S. forces on the ground waited an hour until they called for support, what type of intelligence was used in the mission and why it took as long as it did to recover a U.S. soldiers body.

There has been a lot of speculation about the operation in Niger and theres a perception that the Department of Defense has not been forthcoming and I thought it would be helpful for me to personally clarify to you what we know today, and to outline what we hope to find out in the ongoing investigation,

Dunford said in an hour-long news conference.

U.S. President Donald Trumps handling of condolence messages to the families of the dead soldiers has been criticized by lawmakers in Washington and has raised the profile of the deadly incident.

Dunford said for the first time that U.S. forces on the ground in Niger waited an hour before calling for support.

Within minutes, a U.S. drone located nearby was moved over the firefight and provided intelligence and full-motion video.

French fighter jets arrived above the scene about an hour after that, said Dunford.

It is important to note that when they didnt ask for support for that first hour, my judgment would be that that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support, Dunford said.

The French fighters did not drop bombs when they arrived, something Dunford said was under investigation.


Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week he may consider issuing a subpoena because the White House had not been forthcoming with details of the attack.

On Monday, McCain said lawmakers were getting cooperation and information from the Pentagon and expected a formal hearing on Thursday about the ambush.



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