The ambush on 12 U.S. soldiers on patrol in Niger that left four soldiers dead two weeks ago was reportedly the result of a “massive intelligence failure,” NBC News reported Friday, citing a senior congressional aide who had been briefed on the attack.
The unnamed aide said that there was no overhead surveillance of the mission and that no American quick-reaction force was on standby to rescue the troops if things went wrong. Had it not been for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans.
Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, Dustin Wright, and Sergeant La David T Johnson died and two others were injured when 40 to 50 militants ambushed a 12-man US force in Niger on October 4, according to the Pentagon.
The U.S. patrol was seen as routine and had been carried out nearly 30 times in the six months before the attack, the Pentagon has reported.
NBC News adds:
The aide said questions are being asked about whether the U.S. soldiers were intentionally delayed in the village they were visiting. He said they began pursuing some men on motorcycles, who lured them into a complex ambush. The enemy force had “technical” vehicles — light, improvised military vehicles — and rocket-propelled grenades, the official said.
After the rescue when it became clear that one soldier was missing, “movements and actions to try and find him and bring him back were considered. They just were not postured properly [to get him].” The body of Sgt. La David Johnson was not recovered until nearly 48 hours after the Oct. 4 attack.
The Pentagon said that conclusions about an intelligence failure were premature.
The body of Sgt. La David Johnson was found 48 hours after troops realized he was missing, and roughly a mile away from the attack, CNN reported on Friday.
Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters this week that officials were still seeking answers about the attack.
“These terrorists are conducting war on innocent people of all religions, they are conducting war on innocent people who have no way to defend themselves,” Mattis said.
“In this specific case, contact was considered unlikely, but there’s a reason we have U.S. Army soldiers there and not the Peace Corps, because we carry guns,” he said.