NBC News is reporting, based on an anonymous source, that a “massive intelligence failure” led to an ambush that cost four U.S. military personnel their lives in Niger:
There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, he said, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If it weren’t for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans…
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.
That final paragraph certainly makes it sound as if the search for Sgt. Johnson wasn’t carried out immediately. But a separate report published today by CNN says Johnson’s body was found a mile away from the scene of the ambush and adds that soldiers never left the area until his body was found two days later:
The Pentagon is still looking at the exact circumstances of how and when Johnson became separated from the 12-member team as they were ambushed by 50 ISIS fighters but is emphasizing that the search for Johnson began immediately and dozens of US forces were quickly moved to Niger’s capital Niamey to be ready to go into the field, which some did.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters on Thursday that US, French and Nigerien forces “never left the battlefield” until Johnson was found.
The entire Green Beret-led team has been interviewed about when they last saw Johnson, officials said.
Trump’s condolence call to Johnson’s widow has launched a series of back and forth arguments between the White House and Rep. Wilson of Florida who was present when the call was received. Yesterday Gen. John Kelly defended Trump at the daily press briefing. Today he is being blasted for misstating Rep. Wilson’s statements at a dedication ceremony wrong (and also for offering a preview of a military coup).