Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, provided further details of the ambush in Niger earlier this month that killed four American servicemen and wounded two others. A Nigerien soldier also was killed.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Dunford said the U.S. special forces unit didn’t call for help until an hour into the conflict. Dunford said that within minutes of the call a surveillance drone was moved into position above the scene of the attack. He did not say whether or not the drone was armed, but said it did not fire.
It was another hour before French fighter jets arrived on the scene. Wounded were removed even later when French helicopters and additional Nigerien troops arrived.
Dunford said that under military rules, U.S. forces are only supposed to go out on missions with Nigerien troops when “chances of enemy contact are unlikely.”
The attack occurred after a 12-member Army special forces unit had accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission to a village north of the capital on October 3. After spending the night, the troops returned to their base the next morning when they were attacked by around 50 fighters carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Dunford said the White House was notified when it be came clear that there were American fatalities and again when it became clear that Sgt. La David Johnson was missing.
Dunford said there are around 800 U.S. service personnel in Niger supporting a French-led mission combating ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram in the region.