As the family of Sergeant La David Johnson laid him to rest, the controversy continues over the president's comments he made to the widow of Johnson. The deaths of the four soldiers who were killed in Niger during an attack by Islamist militants has prompted questions as to what happened during the attack. U.S. and Nigerien soldiers who participated in the attack gave conflicting accounts of what happened. Not only is the broader mission of the U.S. military in Niger being questioned, there are questions about what really happened during the ambush.

Questions about the attack

Newser reported that a source said that the attack was a massive intelligence failure. U.S. and Nigerien soldiers gave conflicting accounts of what happened during the attack by ISIS. Currently, the Pentagon is investigating the attacks and trying to determine if the soldiers left a routine patrol to pursue insurgents without the proper approval. American soldiers said they noticed insurgent activity in the area but had not chased them. Those who participated in the operation said the insurgents later ambushed them. Nigerien military officials, who said Nigerien soldiers participated in the patrol, chased the insurgents to the Mali border and they were ambushed on their way back from the border.

Although the Pentagon claims that the U.S. is not involved in combat missions in Niger, the attack complicates the matter because U.S. troops would need permission from higher-ups in order to chase the insurgents. A senior Congressional aide said that the mission was conducted without overhead surveillance or a quick reaction force to step in if there was a problem.

French jets showed up just in time, preventing the situation from becoming worse.

The U.S. mission in Niger

NY Mag reported that the deaths of the U.S. soldiers prompted many to wonder what the U.S. was doing in a poor landlocked country in Africa. The mission seems to be part of a larger, and largely secretive, war on terrorism.

Chief of Staff John Kelly said that the soldiers were in Niger to help train military partners of the U.S. to be better fighters against ISIS. It would protect the U.S. and prevent our country from sending larger numbers of troops to fight ISIS. The deployment of troops was in response to a burgeoning threat of Islamist radicalism. President Obama sent 100 troops to the area in 2013. Now there are 800 American troops.

CBS News reported that the questions over the mission could prompt an evaluation over U.S. involvement in Niger. The Pentagon began bolstering the number of troops in Africa because of the greater Islamist threat. ISIS, Al Queda, and Boko Haram have all been active in Africa. The four soldiers who were killed were part of a larger mission to help the Nigerien government fight extremists. Recently, the widow of slain soldier Sergeant La David Johnson talked about her call with President Trump, which ignited the controversy over Gold Star families.