It was recently revealed that U.S. forces working with Nigerien forces killed 11 ISIS militants during a firefight on Dec. 6, 2017 – just two months after four American soldiers were killed during an ambush in a separate part of Niger, U.S. Africa Command announced for the first time Wednesday.
The attack, in which no U.S. or Nigerien forces were injured, happened in the Lake Chad Basin area.
“The purpose of the mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region,” Samantha Reho, a spokeswoman for Africa Command, told The New York times. “There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred.”
“With that said, our forces do operate in unstable areas and are occasionally exposed to danger from enemy forces,” she added. “When such a situation occurs, our personnel are authorized to respond to threats and violence appropriately.”
Another official speaking on the condition of anonymity told The New York Times that the events were different than that of which U.S. Africa Command said.
The official said Green Berets were assisting Nigerian forces on a multi-day operation near Diffa so they could clear the area of hostile forces and build a new outpost. The official said the December attack was one of the first forays since the ambush in October.
After the October ambush, questions were raised about U.S. military presence in the region. Senior leadership imposed more strict limits on missions conducted in Niger after the October ambush.
An investigation was launched into the October attack, which still awaits review by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The Department of Defense also recently approved imminent danger pay for U.S. troops operating in Niger, and they can now receive an additional $225 per month while deployed.
Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command, did not mention the December attack during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month. However, a House Republican aide told The New York Times that lawmakers were made aware of the December attack soon after it happened.