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Pentagon’s Second Probe Into 2017 Niger Ambush Advises No Further Reprimands

© AP Photo / Carley PeteschIn this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger.
In this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. - Sputnik International
On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that its investigation of the 2017 ambush in the African nation of Niger that left four American soldiers dead had been concluded, and that the disciplinary actions already taken against military personnel involved had been deemed adequate.

In March, Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told the House Armed Services Committee he didn't find the previous review of the Niger ambush "sufficient" and requested a new review "to ensure every aspect of this investigation had been fully considered, including individual accountability." However, following the revised investigation, Shanahan concluded Wednesday that he is "satisfied that all findings, awards and accountability actions were thorough and appropriate." 

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In October 2017, more than 100 militants believed to be aligned with a local Daesh offshoot, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), attacked and killed four US special forces soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers and an interpreter in an ambush in the village of Tongo Tongo in Tillaberi, Niger, near the border with Mali. The militants opened fire on them with machine guns and destroyed their vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades. The ambush ended when French air support stationed in Mali arrived, sending the militants into retreat.

A report last year by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), one of 10 unified combatant commands of the United States Armed Forces, found that the deadly mission in Niger was originally reported to be a low-risk patrol, as US forces in Niger are not authorized to undertake actions believed to have a high risk of enemy engagement.

Nine individuals involved in the ambush have been disciplined, either with letters of reprimand or administrative action. Among them were Lt. Col. David Painter, the battalion commander in charge of Alpha Company and Team 3212 at the time as well as US Special Operations Command Africa Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks.

Col. Bradley Moses, who was involved in the decision to authorize the mission, was not disciplined. According to the New York Times, other people reprimanded include the team's company commander, a sergeant major, a warrant officer and a master sergeant. Their names have been withheld.

Pentagon officials also announced that medals for heroic actions would be awarded to the families of each of the four soldiers killed in the attack.

"The awards will be officially announced and presented in accordance with the families' wishes, and at a time that is appropriate to honor the actions and sacrifice associated with the valor awards," Pentagon officials reported Wednesday. 

In this image provided by the US Air Force, a US Army carry team transfers the remains of Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Ga., late Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, upon arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga., was one of four US troops and four Niger forces killed in an ambush by dozens of Islamic extremists on a joint patrol of American and Niger Force. - Sputnik International
Pentagon Opens New Probe into Senior Officers’ Culpability in 2017 Niger Ambush

Several family members of those lost in the ambush expressed disappointment that no additional disciplinary action would be taken against individuals involved in approving the mission.

"I'm angry as hell," Debra Gannon, the mother of Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, who was killed in the attack, told ABC News.

Arnold Wright, the father of Green Beret Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, another soldier lost that day, told the outlet that he doesn't see how "people in the direct chain of command are being promoted when it was their decision to override the ground commander [that] was instrumental in my son's death."

The US has had forces in Niger since at least 2013 to coordinate with the country's government against Islamic militant groups active in the region. The 2017 ambush revealed that many Americans, including some lawmakers, did not know that the US maintained a military presence in Niger at all.

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