Rep. Russell Statement on Pentagon’s Niger Report
Washington, DC – Rep. Steve Russell (OK-5) issued the following statement on the Pentagon’s Niger Report that was released today:
“The report released by the Pentagon today accurately states that the number one cause of the incident in Niger last October was an aggressive and opportunistic enemy. Based on my own findings from when I traveled to Niger in February, the ambush in Tongo Tongo could have occurred whether the unit conducted other missions or not.
While improvements can be made in the coordination and approval authorization, that still did not affect the missions they applied to. The ambush occurred as the soldiers departed a village at a completely different location that they could have visited under any mission set. They visited the local Nigerien population and drew water from a well at a village; the evidence points to the attack having occurred as a result of a chance encounter after they left this village.
The story not being reported is the bravery displayed by all the soldiers that day, both American and Nigerien. It was the single greatest factor in them surviving an overwhelming attack. Contrary to previous speculation, no soldiers were captured and all of those that were killed went down fighting. With degraded communications, they were able to defend themselves, break contact and account for all of the fallen shortly thereafter.
As we consider our policies in Sub-Saharan Africa, we must consider that our forces have been operating in Niger for decades without incident. Nigeriens are not exporters of trouble but rather the recipients of it. If nations like Niger and their fragile economies fail, there would be famine, disease and human suffering on a scale by the millions. Our modest but important work in the region is vital and at less cost than responding to some mass famine or epidemic. As we live our peaceful lives here at home, it is because brave men like Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson, Sergeant La David Johnson, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright, and their special forces brethren are willing to place themselves at risk to help our fellow man. For that we are eternally grateful.”