White House under fire for handling of Niger operation

Pentagon and FBI investigate raid that led to deaths of four US servicemen

Donald Trump under fire over his handling of the Niger operation
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House has been criticised for its handling of the first major military deployment since Donald Trump took office.

Over the past week, the US President has been engaged in a vicious war of words with Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and Myeshia Johnson, whose husband La David was one of four servicemen killed in an ambush in Niger on 4 October.

US politicians have also criticised the Trump administration’s lack of transparency and asked why they were not told the US had troops fighting Islamic State militants in the West African country.

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A number of high-profile senators, including Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrats Bob Casey and Chuck Schumer, said they were kept in the dark about the operation, which involved more than 1,000 US personnel, CNN reports.

It has emerged that the FBI is assisting authorities in Niger in the investigation into the fatal incident.

Federal agents told the Wall Street Journal it is not uncommon for it to get involved in military investigations when American citizens are killed abroad. However, “the fact that the domestic security service has had to intervene appears to compound criticism of the officials overseeing the aftermath”, as well as the administration’s handling of the raid itself, says Newsweek.

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The Independent says Congress wants to know “not only the purpose of the mission but why the Green Beret-led team was without sufficient support to fight off the 50 Isis militants”.

There are also questions about why La David Johnson’s body was left behind and not recovered until 48 hours later.

Last week, The New York Times reported the Pentagon had launched its own investigation to determine whether the US forces involved in the ambush diverted from their routine patrol to embark on an unapproved military mission.

“Under existing authorities, American ground forces are not allowed to conduct unilateral direct-action operations in Niger or most other countries in Africa,” said the paper.

Speaking to NBC, Graham said veteran Republican senator John McCain, who has clashed frequently with Trump, was “rightly” frustrated at the lack of information from the White House about ongoing US military operations abroad.

“We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world, militarily, and what we’re doing,” he said. “So John McCain is going to try to create a new system to make sure that we can answer the question [about] why we were there. We’ll know how many soldiers are there and, if somebody gets killed there, that we won’t find out about it in the paper.”

McCain took another shot at the President on Monday, attacking the wealthy Americans who received deferments from military service in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s.

Speaking to C-Span, the former Vietnam prisoner of war said: “One aspect of the conflict that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur.”

Trump received five deferments from service in Vietnam: four for academic reasons and one for bone spurs – calcium build-ups – in his heels.

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