Best Defense

10 questions from a veteran Special Operator about that night in Niger

How did this happen?

Nigerien soldiers receive a counter-IED class as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kulani Lakanaria)
Nigerien soldiers receive a counter-IED class as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kulani Lakanaria)

 

By Col. Keith Nightingale, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Best Defense office of firefight affairs

  1. What was the SF Captain leader doing/saying/asking during this event?
  2. Was he “in control” of the perimeter and actions? (over an hour between the first engagement and its conclusion — that’s a long time)
  3. What were the Niger forces doing? Was this a fully integrated defense or separate?
  4. What sort of accountability steps did the Captain take when they departed — e.g., was he aware that 4 KIA’s were left behind?
  5. What did the immediate Higher do/report up the tape, and when?
  6. How was the attacked element disposed on the ground? (2 of the 4 KIA are support/non 18 MOS) And where were the 4 KIA in relation to the element as a whole?
  7. Was an armed drone within reasonable striking distance?
  8. Why wasn’t the unit given a recon drone if it was on a snatch mission of some import?
  9. What is the standard emergency reaction force in the region in the event of an emergency, if any?
  10. Was Sgt. La David Johnson’s body within what would have been the defensive perimeter or was he moved by the bad guys/captured or there by his own initiative? 

Col. (Ret.) Keith Nightingale commanded four infantry companies, three battalions, and two brigades. These units included two tours in Vietnam, the Grenada invasion, and several classified counterterrorist operations, among them the Iran rescue attempt. He was a founding member of the 1-75th Rangers as well as one of the original members of what is now Joint Special Operations Command. He is a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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