10 May

Poor Training, Excessive Risk Led to Ill-Fated Niger Mission, Pentagon Says

The U.S. military has concluded that “no single failure or deficiency” was behind the October ambush that killed four U.S. service members in Niger, according to an eight-page summary of the investigators’ findings released Thursday.

The report concluded that a combination of poor training, complacency and a culture of excessive risk led to the ill-fated mission, as was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The full report on the incident, which is more than 6,000 pages long, wasn’t released on Thursday. A redacted copy of that investigation isn’t due to be released for months, Pentagon officials said.

Top officers briefed reporters about the military’s findings Thursday. Among them were Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr. , Gen. Waldhauser’s chief of staff and the lead investigator, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert Karem.

The report spells out how the two-hour firefight unfolded following a visit by the U.S. troops to local leaders in the village of Tongo Tongo. Suspected Islamic State fighters, who were waiting nearby to attack the convoy, vastly outnumbered the U.S. and Nigerien forces, the Pentagon concluded.

Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright died as they attempted to return fire during the attack, the report found. Sgt. La David Johnson, who was with Nigerien forces in another vehicle, fought back during the attack.

Together, Sgt. La David Johnson and the Nigerien forces attempted to move on foot, while fighting, when it appeared too dangerous for them to get into their vehicle, the report found. Sgt. La David Johnson took cover behind vegetation in the area and fired back, the report concluded, until he was killed. His remains were found two days later.

The U.S. military based its findings, in part, on interviews with 143 witnesses, including survivors of the attack, the report said.

Write to Nancy A. Youssef at Nancy.Youssef@wsj.com

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