The October 4 ambush along the Niger-Mali border left four US special forces killed, and revealed to the US public and Congress for the first time that some 1,000 US troops were on the ground in Niger. After a month has passed, what else have we learned?
Very little, as it turns out. Niger and the Pentagon continue to offer radically different versions of what happened on that day, as well as the circumstances in which the US troops were left behind in the evacuation, something US officials initially insisted couldn’t have happened.
Nigerien officials say this was an “operational mission,” but one in what was not considered enemy territory, intended to detain a suspected ISIS recruiter. Pentagon officials say none of that happened, and that there was absolutely no intention to kill or capture anybody.
What the Pentagon is saying happened continues to vary day to day, and sometimes hour to hour, but officials continue to insist that he “investigation” into the incident is ongoing, and that a final version will be released in a few weeks. Until then, anything the Pentagon says happened seems to be a wild guess, and subject to revision.
US officials are also saying the size of the deployment in Niger, which went from an unspecified number of US “trainers” to 1,000 combat troops without anyone being informed, is likely to grow further. Whether we’ll hear about that when it happens remains to be seen.