The death of four U.S. soldiers from an ISIS ambush earlier this month has drawn attention to the Niger’s catastrophic shadow war.
The U.S. troops were attacked while on a routine patrol through an area known to be occupied by both ISIS and al-Qaeda insurgents. It is believed that the soldiers were ambushed by 50 ISIS-affiliated fighters. Moreover, the Americans had been part of a larger unit of Nigerian troops and the attack occurred after they left talks with a local community of leaders in Tongo Tongo.
There were reports that the troops were on a mission to kill or capture a target in the area, but were obstructed due to the struggle to evacuate them, and the lack of medical resources or reinforcements. False reports have run rife due to the lack of communication from the arid area. While the Pentagon has yet to provide a details of the incident, numerous U.S. officials have described the events: injured troops left on the ground for nearly an hour before any help could reach them, and one of the corpses being recovered 48 hours later, separate from the rest of the group.
According to Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, the attack was entirely unprecedented. The unit in Niger “had actually done 29 patrols without contact over the previous six months.” Despite this, many have criticized the time it took for help to come to the group.
In the area, Jihadists are targeting the younger members of the Fulani community – a group of ethnic herders. Extremist groups, while providing a false sense of security, are threatening the lives and safety of these groups.
President Trump is yet to comment on this ambush, which is the deadliest combat incident involving U.S. troops since he took office. Regardless of whether he voices his reflections on the situation, Western military units must be better prepared for similar attacks in the future to help reduce the amount of fighting and danger in the area.
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