USA pledges to take the fight to Niger terrorists after killing of soldiers
The United States says it will step up its war against Islamist terrorists in Niger, following the killing of four American Green Berets on 4 October 2017.
“The war is morphing,” Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, told reporters on Friday 20th October, in Washington. “You are going to see more actions in Africa, not less. You are going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less. We are going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.”
The ambush that killed Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, Dustin Wright, and Sergeant La David T Johnson and two others who were injured when 40 to 50 militants ambushed the US force in Niger has been blamed on a “massive intelligence failure”. The soldiers were 3rd Special Forces Group, of the Army’s 10th Special Forces Group of the 2nd Battalion, deployed to the region in July. The unit, nicknamed the “Bush Hogs” for their legacy in the region is under the command authority of U.S. Africa Command.
The Defense Secretary James Mattis said, on Thursday, that the Pentagon does not “have all the accurate information yet” regarding the ambush.
Reports however said the soldiers were on their way back from a “key leader engagement” with residents in Tongo Tongo, in the south-western region of Niger near the Mali border when they were attacked by as many as 50 militant fighters thought to be affiliated with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
The Islamist group, suspected to have carried the attack, is led by Adnan Abu Walid who was the chief spokesman for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) – one of the groups that attempted to establish a radical jihadi state in Mali in 2012. The French drove the jihadists out of northern Mali’s cities. In 2013, Abu Walid merged MUJAO with Mokhtar Belmokhtar and his followers. The consolidated movement was called al-Mourabitoun. Their supposed ambition is to spread their influence to sub-Saharan and West Africa.
Graham said “I will insist as the war expands, and as the rules change to be more aggressive, that Congress is informed more often and in more detail,” he said.
The increase of US presence in the region will be seen as good news by many in the West African region, especially countries combating Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Magreb and the Jihadists fighting in the region.
“We have prayed for a greater intervention and engagement of the Americans. We hope the world would pay more attention to the fact that weak governments have been unable to firth these insurgencies. We do need help,” said Eric Dusu, a public commentator and missionary in Niger.
Hassan Joh is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest, Anglican Diocese of Jos