The US Special Forces team didn’t have the required approval for the mission that left four soldiers dead last October in Niger, a military investigation has concluded.
Officials said the elite unit set out from the beginning to hunt for Doundou Chefou, a dangerous militant who is believed to have kidnapped an American aid worker, without alerting higher-level commanders.
As a result, commanders couldn’t accurately assess the mission’s risk level, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
It was initially thought that the Special Forces team was redirected to target Chefou while on a mission to meet local Nigerien leaders.
The probe, however, falls short of blaming the deadly ambush on the lack of approval and finds no single point of failure leading to the attack by ISIS militants.
The ambush occurred after the soldiers learned Chefou had left the area, checked his last known location and began to return home.
It’s unclear whether higher-level commanders would have approved or adjusted the mission – or provided additional resources ahead of the ambush.
Army Sgt. La David Johnson, 25; Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39; and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, were killed in Tongo, Tongo Oct. 4. Four Nigerien troops were also killed, while two other American soldiers and eight Nigerien forces were wounded.
ISIS recently released propaganda video of the fatal attack using footage taken from the helmet of one of the soldiers.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the investigation. He said the investigation was now complete, with the final report being reviewed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior leaders.
With Post Wires