No wonder Trump refused to acknowledge the deaths of four fallen U.S. troops last month.
New revelations about the deadly ISIS ambush that killed four American soldiers last month in Niger raise new questions about why Donald Trump seems so determined the ignore the military operation. And why he refuses, as commander in chief, to take responsibility for the failed raid.
The Pentagon originally described the joint American-Nigerien mission as a routine meet-and-greet session with local elders at a Nigerien town, which meant American troops were “unlikely” to encounter any hostile forces. But sources now describe the mission as a dangerous kill-and-capture one that went very wrong.
“A Nigerien officer said he asked for more soldiers and weapons to bolster the operation, but claimed that request was rejected by the American side,” ABC News reported on Thursday. “A second team, also comprised of American and Nigerien forces, was supposed to join the mission, but for reasons that remain unclear, they were unable to do so.”
Last week, in an interview with a Nigerien soldier, CNN reported the fighter "described the joint US-Nigerien unit as being a ‘light force,’ believing that the combined group had insufficient numbers and firepower for a patrol into what he said was a high risk area."
The U.S. troops targeted in the ambush traveled in a light convoy and had no air cover or drone support to watch over them. It was two hours after the ISIS ambush began before armed French Mirage jets arrived to provide support for the Americans.
There’s been a long-running suspicion that one reason Trump remains so strangely silent about the deaths in Niger — for the first two weeks he refused to even acknowledge the sacrifice of the four fallen Americans — is that details of the mission will ultimately prove to be embarrassing for the administration. And that they will be especially embarrassing since ISIS led the attack at the same time Trump brags that a cornerstone of his first year in office has been that he’s “defeated” ISIS.
Indeed, as Trump steadfastly refused to knowledge the terrorist attack in Niger, he also refused to denounce “radical Islamic terrorsim” at the root of the deadly ambush.
In the weeks since the deadly ambush, most of the details that have emerged continue to paint the picture of a confused mission that put inexperienced combat soldiers into a deadly situation, in part by changing the mission mid-course. That might also be why Trump tries to ignore the story, and when pressed, he assigns responsibility to “my generals.”
Note that when it’s politically advantageous, Trump does rush in to take credit for U.S. military raids. Last week, he publicly boasted that he had personally given the order for a military raid that ended with the capture of Mustafa al-Imam in Libya, a militant believed to have been involved in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
“Our memory is deep and our reach is long, and we will not rest in our efforts to find and bring the perpetrators of the heinous attacks in Benghazi to justice,” Trump insisted.
For some reason, he won’t make that same pledge to avenge the deaths of four Americans killed by ISIS this year.