Statement by Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Ms. Dana W. White on Niger Investigation Report
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis concluded his review of the U.S. Africa Command investigative report on the enemy ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger on October 4, 2017, that resulted in the tragic loss of four U.S. service members and four Nigerien partners.
The investigation spanned three continents and took three months to complete. USAFRICOM conducted a thorough investigation of the events and circumstances relevant to the ambush to provide the answers the Nation and the families deserve. However, no amount of investigation or corrective action will ease the agonizing grief that the families of our fallen must feel. The Department hopes that the families will take pride and comfort in knowing - as this investigation makes clear - that their loved ones fought and died bravely in defense of our Nation, its people, and the values we hold dear. It is also important to thank our Nigerien partners and French allies who aided and supported the entire team.
The secretary examined the investigation report in great detail and concurs with recommendations contained in the report. The secretary directed implementation of the recommendations without delay and directed a status report be provided to him within 120 days.
Secretary Mattis concluded there are institutional and organizational issues, not isolated to this event that must be addressed immediately by the Department of Defense. He directed a number of specific actions to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations on Department personnel practices to improve operational units' readiness and lethality. Among others, he directed the Department of the Army to conduct an assessment of the training Special Forces receive and provide to partner forces, and to review its pre-deployment training to ensure that units are adequately prepared for operational requirements.
The secretary also directed U.S. Special Operations Command to review training, operating procedures, operational-level planning, and other factors relevant to the ambush in Tongo Tongo. The Secretary of the Army and USSOCOM will report back to Secretary Mattis with their findings and recommendations within 120 days.
Secretary Mattis also directed the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, specifically the Close Combat Lethality Task Force, to review all Department policies that adversely impact operational units' cohesion or lethality.
Secretary Mattis sent his findings and a copy of the USAFRICOM investigation to the senior civilian and military leaders of the Department and the commanders of all combatant commands with instructions to review this report as a sober reminder of the need to develop and maintain the highest level of combat skills in the Nation's military forces.
This report documents critical lessons learned for the continuing fight against violent extremist organizations around the world. As painful as the loss of our soldiers is, it is our duty to honor their sacrifice and learn from this operation in our constant effort to improve our training, tactics, techniques, procedures and operations.