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Dunford: We Owe the Families and American People as Much Information as Possible on Niger Ambush

Speaking from the Pentagon Monday afternoon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Military Operations in Niger General Joseph Dunford briefed reporters on the timeline of the attack last week, which left four American special forces soldiers dead. They were ambushed by ISIS fighters with rockets and machine guns while leaving a village on a reconnaissance mission and heading back to their post. The contact with the enemy happened south of the village and outside of the village borders. 

"We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened," Dunford said. "The only thing I'm asking for here today is patience so that the information we provide you is factual." 

Many Americans have expressed surprise about the U.S. military operating in Niger. Congress has been repeatedly briefed about American presence on the ground, but Dunford explained why units are in country and said the U.S. can be proud of its counter-terrorism operations in the region. 

“The reason we’re in West Africa is because there’s a concentration of ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Dunford said, adding that the U.S. has had troops in Niger on-and-off for 20 years. “We have sent them [U.S. special forces] there to operate in areas where there are extremist elements.”

At the beginning of the attack, a drone was not overhead but was sent up immediately after it started. The intelligence on the ground earlier in the day and before the mission did not indicate an incident would occur. 

Dunford said there are a number of questions that remain unanswered at the moment, but will be resolved as the investigation continues. He said once all of the information about the situation is gathered, he will sit with the families who will have him in their homes to go over the details. After that, he will relay the details to the press. 

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