Terrible news came to the nation yesterday from United States Army Special Forces operating in Niger.
According to the New York Times, US troops were engaged in a training mission when they were ambushed by unknown hostiles. Three Green Berets were killed and two wounded in the savage and unexpected attack.
Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo, the spokesman for the United States Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, confirmed the tragedy in an email: “We can confirm reports that a joint US and Nigerian patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger.”
The attack occurred near the border of Mali, a hotspot for militants of the Islamic Maghreb, an ally and affiliate of Al Qaeda. They frequently conduct cross-border raids in the area, but at this time, neither they nor any other group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Details are still coming in about the attack. Supposedly, a number of Nigerian troops participating in the training were also casualties, but there has been no confirmation. The soldiers were part of the 3rd Special Forces Group assisting Nigerian troops with counterterrorism training.
Their efforts are part of a war strategy former-President Obama implemented during his years in the White House. Recognizing that the US Army couldn’t be everywhere at once, nor was it feasible for US troops to be spread thin in multiple locations, efforts were made to minimize the need for an American presence in contested areas around the world.
President Trump and his military officials are continuing the effort of training, organizing, and arming foreign armies and security forces to handle their own conflicts and operate autonomously when future conflicts occur.
Niger is one country where this training and self-sufficiency is vital. Being on the border of Mali and suffering from a poor economy, Niger has been the victim of numerous raids as insurgents sweep across the borders.
According to J. Peter Pham, Vice President of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center in Washington, the militants operating in the area are very effective, as evidenced by the ambush. “These militants have proven remarkably resilient, exploiting local and/or ethnic grievances to embed themselves into communities as well as political borders and differences to escape capture. It was no accident that this attack took place near Niger’s border with Mali, an area that has seen numerous incidents in recent years,” he remarked.
It’s no doubt that Al Qaeda and other hostile forces want the American presence removed from Niger. Since 2013, surveillance drones have tracked Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda affiliates in the area, providing critical information on their movements and attacks.
Three Green Berets were killed and two wounded in Niger in a savage and unexpected attack. Are we spread too thin?
Currently, the US is constructing a drone base in Agadez, Niger for $50 million. Once finished — which is expected sometime next year — drones can be launched hundreds of miles closer to Southern Libya. It will provide faster intelligence and allow the drones to be in the area longer to provide more accurate information before returning to the base.
Niger has proven to be a valuable ally in the war against Al Qaeda and this area near the border of Mali provides great strategic value to stem the flow of terror into Africa.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the brave soldiers of the US Army Special Forces who lost their lives and their families who will never see them come home. Their sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our great nation is deeply appreciated.