U.S. military officials wanted an armed drone to accompany Green Berets in Niger before the ambush took place, but their request was denied.
The Green Beret team, ambushed by up to 50 fighters that were part of an Islamic State-affiliate, belonged to a larger mission that may have been more dangerous than the original one, which Pentagon officials have maintained was believed to be low-risk, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In reality, the threat situation escalated to the point where military officials thought an armed drone was warranted, and unfortunately, the Green Beret team was subsequently hit by an ambush of ISIS-affiliated fighters, who made use of rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms.
However, that request was blocked. The chain of approval for an armed drone includes the Pentagon, State Department and Nigerien government. The fact that a request ever existed in the first place indicates that military officials believed this particular mission to be more dangerous than other previous ones, which occurred without major incident. U.S. forces have operated in the area for the past year without being attacked.
A military official told The Wall Street Journal that the investigation into what led to the deaths of four Green Berets will look at two notable changes in the mission. First, the Green Beret team was supposed to train and advise local Nigerien forces, but then they began advising on how to capture or kill a terrorist. The second change was that the Green Beret team ended up investigating an abandoned camp left by the terrorist, who has been described as a senior recruiter for ISIS. ABC News reports that the target has been code-named Naylor Road and is a top-three objective on the list in Niger. He was neither captured, nor killed Oct. 4.
Once the camp was destroyed Oct. 4, the Green Berets and local Nigerien forces were ambushed, resulting in four dead Americans and five dead Nigeriens.
Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the State Department, stated that no diplomats blocked a request for a military drone.
“The U.S. ambassador in Niger did not deny support or protection for military personnel involved in the October 4 ambush,” Nauert said. “The ambassador supported all efforts to ensure the safety of our military colleagues in the field.”
It’s unclear at this time who blocked the request.
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