WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2017 — Three U.S. service members and one partner nation member were killed, and two U.S. service members wounded while conducting an advise and assist mission in Niger yesterday, Pentagon officials announced in a news conference today.
The operation was being conducted in support of Nigerien security forces in the southwestern portion of the country, said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White.
The wounded personnel have been flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, she said. Names of the killed and wounded service members are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Fighting Al-Qaida in Africa
The U.S. military has been working for years with the nations of West Africa to build up their defense capabilities in the face of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, White said.
This is the first time American forces have been killed and wounded in combat in the country, she said. “I think clearly there’s risk for our forces in Niger,” said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff. “Anytime we deploy full forces globally, we will look very hard at the enablers that need to be in place in order to provide security for them. And that ranges from the ability to pull them out if they are injured, to the ability to reinforce them at the point of a fight if they … need reinforcement. We look at all those things, and evaluate on a continual basis.”
U.S., Allies Putting Pressure on Global Terrorists
The general noted that the campaign against violent extremists is a global campaign. “We’re having enormous success in Iraq and in Syria — in fact, we’re squeezing the life out of the caliphate right now,” he said. “It’s in its dying last days.”
With that being the case, it is inevitable that terrorists will try to go to “the coldest corner in the room — go to other places,” McKenzie said.
“They tried to go to Libya; it didn’t work out real well [for the terrorists] in Libya. And I don’t want to make Libya into a model success story, but they’ve been unable to establish themselves there,” he said.
Terrorists have also tried to escape to sub-Saharan Africa, the general said. American forces, he said, continue to work with countries in the region — including Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and others — to increase the capabilities to stop the terrorists from taking root.
“I would not, at this time, draw any particular conclusion from the incident that happened yesterday [in Niger],” McKenzie said. “I think that it does reflect the fact, though, that we’re having enormous success against the core, the very heart of this movement. But we’re going to be operating across the service of the entire globe, for quite a while to complete these operations. This is simply a manifestation of that.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)