Pentagon still gathering details on Niger ambush as McCain suggests subpoena 

Posted: 3:53 pm Thursday, October 19th, 2017

By Staff Writer

As a key U.S. Senator said again on Wednesday that the Trump Administration was not being forthcoming about an ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers in the African nation of Niger, the Secretary of Defense told reporters that an investigation is ongoing into the October 4 incident, which military officials believe was linked to a group that is backed by the Islamic State.

“We do not have all the accurate information yet,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at a Pentagon photo op. “We will release it as rapidly as we get it.”

Little has been said in public by either defense officials or the White House about the Niger incident, where a small group of U.S. Army soldiers were believed to have been ambushed by fighters who are linked to the Islamic State.

“The loss of our troops is under investigation,” Mattis said as he defended the lack of official details in public. “We in the Department of Defense like to know what we are talking about, before we talk.”

Monday was the first time that President Trump had commented about the attack in Niger; when asked about his silence, Mr. Trump instead talked about how he had written letters and called military families, seemingly raising questions about how his predecessors had handled similar situations.

The President did not say anything about the specifics of the attack; instead, the White House has become focused on a fight over what Mr. Trump said to the widow of one of the soldiers, and how it was interpreted by family members, and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), who is close to the family.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, again said that little information had been given to members of Congress about the attack, making clear his frustration at the lack of details.

“It may require a subpoena,” McCain said on Thursday.

McCain has already threatened to slow down work some Pentagon nominees to get the attention of military leaders, so they will provide more information about the Niger situation, and he made clear that he has sent that message to the Defense Secretary.

This morning, McCain expressed his frustration with the Trump Administration on another front, after the White House did not send a witness to a Senate hearing on defending against cyber attacks.

“We’re going to have to demand a better cooperation and better teamwork than we are getting now,” McCain said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It wasn’t clear if McCain would hold hearings on the Niger incident, as Democrats started to publicly ask questions as well.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee has a responsibility to ask critical questions about our mission in Niger and ensure our troops have the resources they need,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), in a letter to McCain, asking for hearings into the incident, and echoing McCain’s concerns.

“Since the incident, the Pentagon has provided few details about the circumstances of the ambush and the U.S. and partner force response once they came under attack,” Nelson said.

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