Pentagon Struggles to Defend America’s Secret War in Niger

U.S. troops on the ground in Niger (image source: thenation.com)

The government and military authorities of the USA must be suckers for punishment, already struggling to manage international opposition to their ongoing efforts to effect regime change in Syria and with the bitter taste of failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya still strong in their mouths, they are still escalating US involvement in foreign wars.

These military operations, in South Sudan, Somalia and Mali among other African nations have been going on for some time but with the distractions of Syria and Yemen and the constant stream of fake news aimed at demonising Russia to help, Washington has so far managed to keep a lid on what it is up to in Africa. Now however, the Pentagon and State Department spinmeisters are facing a problem. Last week, it was revealed that the Pentagon had kept a number of recent clashes involving US personnel in Niger secret.

Officials must now trying defend this latest US involvement in a local the war, but the sell to the public the idea that keeping most of the details of the war effort in Niger out of the news was in any way compatible with the ethics of liberal democracy. And they are not succeding, mainly because trying to present this secrecy as a case of keeping the details of US actions secret from the enemy being vital to national security.

“They learn a great deal from information we put out. They don’t deserve a report card,” insisted Pentagon spokesperson Dana White. Other officials insisted all the fighting and all the secrecy about the fighting were totally appropriate.

Yet none of these incidents involved any US casualties, and surely the assorted enemies know about their own losses. Keeping these clashes out of the papers in America seems clearly to be designed to keep Americans in the dark about military operations that were never debated or authorised by congress in the first place.

Pentagon officials are currently taking the stance that the military can decide when and if to tell the American people that U.S. troops have been in combat.

The officials briefly outlined the policy in confirming that they withheld news that an attack on a joint patrol of U.S. and Nigerien troops had been repelled Dec. 6, about two months after the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger that killed four members of first brought to light the involvement of US soldiers in the combat zones of Niger.

“Our troops are often in harm’s way, and there are tactical things that happen that we don’t put out a press release about,” Dana White said, in defence of the Pentagon’s seecrecy regarding the second and subsequent attacks in Niger.

Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff director who joined White at the briefing, rejected charges that the Defense Department lacks a strategy for the estimated 800 U.S. service members in Niger to carry out.

“I completely disagree,” McKenzie said. “I think we do have a plan and the plan is working.”

He said this despite the Oct. 4 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo in northwestern Niger that killed four U.S. and five Nigerien troops on what had been expected to be a routine joint patrol with little risk.

McKenzie told reporters the mission in Niger is to advise and assist local forces, and joint patrols are assigned “when combat was unlikely.” It was also unlikely, he said, in the recently revealed December combat incident when fighters believed to be linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked a U.S.-Nigerien patrol. Unlikely that ISIS fighters will try to kill American and NATO troops? What effing planet to these arseholes live on?

“Our forces reacted appropriately with their Nigerien partners and no U.S. soldiers were injured in that combat,” McKenzie said. He either could not or would not say whether any of the fighters from the Oct. 4 ambush were involved in the December attack, but noted that the Dec. 6 attack occurred about 680 miles to the east of the first incident.

In Niger, “The intent is for our partners to do the fighting, for us to support them up to the last covered and concealed position before they become engaged,” McKenzie said, adding “We do not intend to seek combat with our forces in Niger,” he said. But if U.S. forces are attacked, “we’re prepared to react to that.”

U.S. Africa Command confirmed the Dec. 6 combat action in Niger only after The New York Times reported that it had occurred. This again shows how firmly the US government os held in te grip of the military / industrial complex, and how impossible the task President Trump set himself, to drain the swamp, actually is.

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