Dead Commandos in Niger a Bipartisan Failure of Strategy and Accountability

So many questions and none of them being asked on behalf of the public by Congress.


When news broke that four U.S. Army commandos were killed by hostile fire in Niger last week, Americans might be forgiven if their first response was, "Where?" While Afghanistan is often dubbed our "forgotten war," U.S. military intervention in Niger was never on our national radar in the first place.

There's a good reason for that: American troops' presence in Niger now spans three presidential administrations, but their mission has never been subject to congressional authorization or public consideration of the prudence and necessity of such an intervention.

The tragedy of this ambush invites us to correct that deficiency, starting with a review of the facts. U.S. troops, active in Niger since 2005, were first deployed by President George W. Bush to train local forces and support Paris' counter-terrorism efforts in the former French colony and in nearby nations including Mali. In 2007, the mission was put under the umbrella of African Command, or AFRICOM, the Pentagon's newest continental command center.

President Obama sent additional American soldiers to Niger in 2013, to "provide support for intelligence collection and [would] also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region." One year later, Obama expanded drone operations to Niger.

Today, President Trump seems content to stay the course of under-the-radar escalation. A major U.S. base is under construction to serve as a hub for drone activity throughout the region, while American boots on the ground in Niger are significantly occupied with the arrival of extremists from neighboring Libya, which remains in chaos since the U.S.-facilitated ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The use of Special Forces is key to Washington's misleading claim that this is a minor project unworthy of civilian scrutiny. The attack which left four Americans and an unknown number of Nigerien troops dead last week reveals that is not the case. "America is not at war in Africa," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc said after visiting the continent in 2016, "but its partner forces are." The ambush in Niger shows this is a distinction without difference. Our partnership is clearly significant enough that Americans are in the line of fire.

And to that we must ask, why is Washington engaged in an unaccountable, costly, and dangerous intervention in Niger? What vital U.S. national security interests are at stake in this African country? Would we really be measurably less safe without this mission? How much are we spending on this endeavor, and for how long will it take? Why must American troops risk their lives to supplement a far larger French intervention? What does Washington expect to achieve? And if this intervention is so vital to our existential security, why is it kept so quiet?

More broadly, as military historian Ret. Col. Andrew Bacevich has asked, "Under what circumstances can Americans expect nations [like Niger] to assume responsibility for managing their own affairs? To put it another way, when (if ever) might U.S. forces actually come home?" Is it "incumbent upon the United States to police vast swaths of the planet in perpetuity," and, if so, "What sequence of planned actions or steps is expected to yield success?"

All of these are questions I suspect the Trump administration, like the Obama and Bush administrations before it, could not answer about Niger to the public's satisfaction—and so it has elected, like its predecessors, not to speak of Niger at all.

This is a sorry excuse for strategy and accountability in a deeply important policy arena where, as we have sadly learned from experience this month, lives are at stake. Congress should demand answers to these critically important questions from the executive branch before another life is sacrificed or dollar appropriated.

NEXT: Not Even Lincoln Is Spared the Wrath of the Statue Topplers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You expect Trump to acknowledge this military action, or Congress to do its job? Niger please.

    1. Somebody needs to produce ‘Innocence Of Nigers’ so that we can blame them.

      1. I Make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $70h to $86h.. Go this site and start your work..

        Good luck…..

  2. Do you know who else expanded their drone army?

    1. Me, while playing Forge of Empires on my phone during a meeting last week?

  3. Maybe they’re guarding the Yellowcake that was never actually sold to Saddam?

  4. I’m waiting to see the upcoming videos of hot Foxblondes, metrosexual squares, and other anchornews dorks pronouncing ‘Niger’ from the teleprompter.

    1. It’s pronounced [awkward stammer].

      1. I’m sure that they’ll pronounce it “nee-jair”, parroting the French pronunciation, instead of the proper American pronunciation “nye-jer”.

        1. I learned the other day that Calcutta is now “Kolkata”. We need to MAGA and take back our names.

          1. Uh oh. Nobody tell Rhywun what happened to Bombay.

  5. Pronounced ‘L?h-‘n?rd ‘Skin-‘n?rd.

  6. When news broke that four U.S. Army commandos were killed by hostile fire in Niger

    The Orange Fucking Moron’s Benghazi..

    Wait a minute – BENGHAZI was a wingnut conspiracy theory so no liberals will really make that shit up.

    1. Says a moron whose name is orange.

    2. The Orange Fucking Moron’s Benghazi..

      Wait a minute – BENGHAZI was a wingnut conspiracy theory so no liberals will really make that shit up.

      Trump conspired to get these commandos killed? Chris Stephens is still alive? The 2012 Benghazi attacks were the work of a lone gunman?

      I seriously have no idea who you’re convincing or what you’re convincing them of with these statements.

      1. I seriously have no idea who you’re convincing or what you’re convincing them of with these statements.

        He’s done a pretty good job over the years of convincing me that he’s a complete moron.

      2. Obama “conspired to get those commando’s killed”?

        Idiot Wingnut CT from an idioit.

        1. Idiot Wingnut CT from an idioit.

          Now I’m convinced!

        2. I sometimes forget that these people actually think Obama committed all these horrible things on purpose. They are actually excellent judges of character, if not factual reality.

          1. Not Obama (at first)
            Then Condie.
            Then the media.
            And after a long, long time, Tony.

            And to be clear, “these horrible things” are lying about what happened, when it happened, and the cause.
            Hint: No you tube video was involved.

    3. Benghazi was a smokescreen to hide the real crime….The IMMORAL & ILLEGAL weapons running from Libya thru Turkey to radicals in Syria who wanted to kill Assad….It made Iran-Contra look like child’ play!!…Read Seymour Hersh’s, “The Red Line and The Rat Line”

  7. Why Democrats are pussies, Part 12:

    This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner?and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers?is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.

    It took a basketball coach to say what no Democrat would.

    (Greg Popvich)

    1. It took a basketball coach to say what no Democrat would.

      (Greg Popvich)

      Finally, a criticism of Donald Trump by a longstanding expert in the field of Basketball. What a breath of fresh air!

      1. Popovich is spot on and only you clueless Trumptards are too stupid to see it.

        1. See, if you’d read what I wrote, you might’ve gotten the impression that I didn’t exactly think Popovich was wrong, just not very original or exceedingly relevant.

          1. Well, the quote could have been written at any time in the last 150 years or so, so it’s easy to see how throwing it around might lead to some misunderstandings.

        2. Popovich is overrated because he lucked into David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard.

          1. Maybe, but Drumpf is still a fucking moron, and you still want to suck him cock.

    2. If Poppy-Brain really cared about our military, he would call out the War Crimes of Shrub #2 & Obummy & all those US soldiers who were killed & left maimed & suicidal for no good earthly reason except to fill the coffers of the Globalists, Zionists, US Pols & the Military-Industrial Complex!

    3. But that is behind us now; Trump got elected.

  8. Way to miss the forest for the trees – it’s not important that there’s some dead troops in Niger, what matters is how Trump expressed his condolences to the families compared to how Obama expressed his condolences to the families of the fallen.

    1. Did you know that Trump’s predecessors didn’t even know how to use a phone?

      1. Even an Obama-Phone?

  9. I’ve met cracked out whores on the sidewalk asking for a ride to the casino with fewer mental health issues than the president.

    1. I’m not sure what your mom has to do with this, but thank you for sharing.

      1. You get jealous of the length and girth of pencil erasers, don’t you?

    2. Weren’t those the same whores Obummy used to pick up?….Of course they was Tranny Whores for sure!!!

  10. The Holy American Empire

    1. YES!!!…..The BI-PARTISAN Holy American Empire!!!

  11. It’s not a failure of strategy, it’s a failure of policy, and a failure to follow the law as written in the War Powers Act.

    1. It is NOT A FAILURE of anything….It is INTENTIONALLY continuing & the expanding the War Crimes & ILLEGAL INTERVENTIONS that make billions for the Bankers & Pols & Military-Industrial Complex!!!

  12. Benghazi? Hillary’s fault. EIGHT congressional investigations (first found nothing incriminating)
    Niger? “Bipartisan fault” even as NO investigations are called, the fucking moron is tied up wondering if Obama called Kelly when his son was killed, and Republicans posing as libertarians joining the chorus

    1. It’s not like the previous administration didn’t have the opportunity to get troops out of Niger, also, so yes, there’s bipartisan blame here. And the fact that there’s bipartisan blame is the very reason there will be no investigation at all.

    2. Foreign intervention is always bipartisan. Note that the issue the GOP had with Benghazi wasn’t a question of why we were there in the first place. And note that when Trump’s raid in Yemen killed an 8-year-old girl and a SEAL, the Dems’ main concern was whether or not he was tweeting and it compromised the operation (and the 8-year-old girl got very little play since it might have reminded people that Obama already killed her 16-year-old brother)

  13. Rule number one in war; good young men die.
    Rule number two in war; no one can change rule number one.

    (paraphrase of Hawkeye on M*A*S*H tv)

  14. I’m so confused. It’s like actual journalism, but with Trump in the story.

    How can that be? Here at Reason?

    Be very afraid. They obviously haven’t gotten to you yet. But your time is coming. They’ll be replacing you with an animatronic Trump Hate Bot any day now.

    The Reasonford Writers

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.