The New York Times is reporting that a draft military investigation into the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Niger last year calls for the Pentagon to reduce the number of ground missions in West Africa.
Military officials with knowledge of the findings told the newspaper the investigation also concludes that commanders in the field should have less authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols. Higher-level commanders will now need to approve certain missions that carry a higher risk.
No drawdown in Libya, Somalia
The officials say U.S. troops will continue to carry out joint patrols with local military forces, but say military officials will more thoroughly vet such missions, according to the paper. The officials said missions would not be scaled back in Libya or Somalia, where U.S. troops have been working with local forces to fight Islamic State and al-Shabab militants.
The draft investigation findings have not yet been released to the public.
The Times said the military investigation describes a string of errors that led to the deaths of the Americans, including bad decision-making and a breakdown in communication.
October ambush in Niger
Pentagon and Nigerien defense officials said Islamic State fighters ambushed their forces Oct. 4, killing four American soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers and a Nigerien interpreter.
In the attack, a group of 12 members of a U.S. Special Operations Task Force had accompanied 30 Nigerian forces on a reconnaissance mission from the capital city of Niamey to an area near Tongo Tongo.
Members of the team had just completed a meeting with local leaders and were walking back to their vehicles when they were attacked, U.S. officials told VOA.
The soldiers said the meeting ran late, and some suspected the villagers were intentionally delaying their departure, one of the officials said.
About 1,300 U.S. military personnel work in the Lake Chad Basin — Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad — to help strengthen local militaries and counter Boko Haram, al-Qaida, IS and other extremist groups.