US Operations in Africa Lacked Transparency Before Niger Ambush

Officials Have Offered Little on May's Somalia Chaos

The October 4 ambush in Niger, which led to the deaths of four US special forces, has led to a flurry of inquiries, both on the specifics of the incident and reports of leaving behind troops, but also that the African Command appears not to have told anybody about the scope of US operations within Niger before that.

Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken

With a lot of questions still unanswered, the focus has grown increasingly on the shocking lack of transparency for US military operations in Africa. Yet Niger has also led to some interest in revisiting the details of another incident, the May 11 death of a US Navy SEAL in Somalia, the first such death in that country in decades.

In that case, the SEALs were skulking around on the outskirts of a remote Somali village, killing suspected al-Shabaab militants until one of them was spotted and killed. This resulted in several hours of fighting and ending in a hasty retreat by US forces, leaving behind a lot of evidence of the incident.

Indeed, AFRICOM wasn’t particularly forthcoming about what happened in Somalia, either, but villagers were able to retrace the steps of the US troops, using the footprints in the mud and rubbish left behind to offer the closest thing to a timeline for that incident that the public has ever, or likely will ever, see.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of