Department of Defense Press Briefing on the results of the Investigation into the October 4, 2017, Ambush in Niger
Colonel Rob Manning, Director, Defense Press Office; Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem; Marine Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command; Army Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr., chief of staff, U.S. Africa Command; Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White
GENERAL THOMAS D. WALDHAUSER: Good afternoon, everyone. We are here this afternoon to brief you on the findings of U.S. Africa Command's investigation into the ambush of U.S. and Nigerien soldiers near the Tongo -- TongoTongo, Niger in early October 2017, and also to answer your questions.
Before we begin however, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those lost in this attack. On 4 October 2017, Sergeant First Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright and Sergeant La David Johnson died valiantly in the service to our nation.
Two additional soldiers were also wounded in this attack. We honor their sacrifices and salute their courage. I also want to extend my sympathies to the families of the Nigerien partners who were killed and injured that day, as well.
We are grateful to the Nigerien and French forces who did not hesitate to come to the aid of the American and Nigerien team. In a moment, I will ask Mr. Robert Karem, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs to provide a strategic overview of why U.S. forces are in Niger.
Then I will turn to Major General Roger Cloutier, the investigating officer, to discuss the facts surrounding the attack and his findings. As the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, I am responsible for all U.S. military activities of the six subordinate component commanders, from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command, flag officer commanders in 53 of the countries on the African continent.
Accordingly, I take ownership for all the events connected to the ambush of 4 October. Again, the responsibility is mine. In my duties as the Combatant Commander, I directed Major General Cloutier to conduct a thorough investigation of the attack near Tongo Tongo.
And over several months, from October 2017 to the end of January in 2018, the investigative team completed this complex and important task. I ensured it was conducted in a thorough, transparent and professional manner.
Our commitment first and foremost, has been to provide a complete accounting to the families. Over the past several weeks, Major General Cloutier and a group of fellow soldiers met with each of the families to brief them on the findings of this investigation.
With the conclusion of the investigation, it is my duty and obligation to make required changes and adjustments to how U.S. military forces conduct daily operations on the African continent. Consequently, I will ensure the lessons learned are communicated to all levels within AFRICOM, as well as within the component commands.
And integrate these changes into our daily operational activities. Toward this end, after the events of 4 October, I directed a number of changes to further mitigate risk and improve readiness of U.S. forces in Africa. It is important to note we need this prior to the conclusion of the investigation and did not wait to take action.
While operational security considerations preclude me from identifying some specific details, I would like to share several examples of the changes with you. First, I have ensured service members operating within the AFRICOM area of responsibility understand the intent and the guiding principles of the by, with and through strategic approach when working with our Allies and partners.
The fundamental principles of this framework are critical to an enabling approach to security assistance. By, with and through emphasizes employing U.S. military capabilities in a supporting role, enabling African partner nations to address their security challenges.
To be clear, our emphasis is to help our partners so they can credibly provide for their own defense. We specifically place U.S. forces in a supporting role and not as participants in direct combat. Second, I have directed additions to the minimal equipment requirements for the special operations team that worked for the Special Operations Command Africa.
Ensuring that their security posture is enhanced. This includes increased firepower for force protection. I directed adjustments to the mobility requirements, which will provide teams with additional options for vehicle movement based on terrain, traffic ability and mission.
Third, in conjunction with the Commander of Special Operations Command Africa, I directed a comprehensive review of the concept of operations process used by the special operations component. The changes following this review now provide clear, unambiguous guidance for submission and approval for partner-force operations.
These measures eliminate possible confusion of approval of authorities and allow proper oversight by the leadership in the SOC Africa change of command -- chain of command. These are only a few of the corrective measures taken.
While the investigation focused on understanding the events of 4 October, it also included a comprehensive examination of other factors, including force generation, pre-deployment training, unit transitions, command oversight and operational support. Of these areas, I would like to talk with you in greater detail about preparedness of Team Ouallam to conduct partnered, advise, assist and accompany operations on 3 and 4 October.
The investigation discovered the process for staffing the team's at-home station did not align with the pre-deployment training programs. This resulted in key billets, such as the team leader taking charge of the unit well into the pre-deployment workup period.
The investigation also discovered the integration and training with partner forces in Niger was inadequate. Team Ouallam did not meet the appropriate standards of familiarization and integration with the Nigerien partner force prior to -- to conducting the initial mission on 3 October.
In addition, basic social-level routine tasks, such as conducting rehearsals for immediate action drills upon enemy contact, were not completed prior to stepping off for this mission. The investigation also found the team inaccurately portrayed the concept of operations for the first of three total missions on 3 and 4 October. Although the evidence from the investigation indicated this event was neither a standard practice, nor commonly accepted, it underscores the confusion at the time over understanding the Special Operations component, CONOP, approval process.
Taken collectively, these items dealing with Team Oallampreparedness call into question the oversight and supervision responsibilities at various levels within the SOC Africa chain of command.
Now I would like to describe for you the way forward, with regards to accountability.
I approved the findings and recommendations of the investigating officer, and provided additional context and comments in my appointing authority actions. I subsequently forwarded the material to the Secretary of Defense through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretary concurred with all findings and recommendations. Accordingly, the secretary directed AFRICOM to implement recommendations specific to my responsibilities as the combatant commander without delay.
The secretary also directed Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, and the United States Army to address matters related to organizing, training and equipping of Special Operations personnel for deployments.
The secretary then provided Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army with specific guidance to consider all appropriate remedies, as the law and regulations permit, to ensure appropriate actions are taken with regards to accountability, including any issues that may not have been addressed in the investigations.
It is important to underscore the fact that AFRICOM, SOCOM and the Army have already taken steps to improve a number of areas. AFRICOM, SOCOM and the Army will provide the secretary a status report on all these matters within 120 days.
At this time, I'd like to -- like to turn to Mr. Karem for his opening remarks.
SECRETARY ROBERT S. KAREM: Thank you, General Waldhauser. The United States Military has had a presence in Niger, providing support to their security forces off and on for more than 20 years. Our focus in recent years has been on the al-Qaida, Boko Haram and ISIS threats across the Sahel region.
In the wake of conflicts in Libya and Mali, this threat has evolved, and it has expanded. Today, approximately 800 DOD personnel are in Niger, a country -- it is nearly twice the size of Texas -- in support of a region-wide, multinational effort largely focused on building the capacity of local security forces to counter terrorist threats across the region.
Of the 800 personnel, only a small fraction are special operations forces engaged in efforts to train and equip our partner forces, or to provide, advise, assist and accompany support for Nigerien forces.
None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations. The majority of DOD personnel in Niger are supporting air operations at the airfield in Niamey, or construction of an airfield in Agadez.
The establishment of the Agadez airfield will help provide additional ISR coverage in the region. Our special operations forces in Niger seek to enhance the effectiveness of our local partners so they can address the terrorist threat in the region before terrorist groups take root.
This effort is necessary because the establishment of terrorist safe havens in the Sahel could pose a significant risk to U.S. national security interests.
Niger is a willing counterterrorism partner, but is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet has limited means to confront these threats without assistance.
In Niger and across the Sahel, we are focused on a “by, with and through” approach where we enable the security forces of partner nations with whom we have compatible strategic interests.
This approach places an emphasis on U.S. military capabilities being employed in a supporting role, empowering willing partners to take primary responsibility for countering terrorist groups on their own soil.
We do this to avoid having to send thousands of Americans to shoulder an even larger burden in the fight against a shared enemy.
We are not alone in working to empower local forces to confront this enemy.
Consistent with Secretary Mattis' strategic guidance, we work in concert with the Department of State, USAID, as well as African, European and other Allies and partners who recognize the growing threat emanating from this region.
In particular, I want to acknowledge that French leadership in the Sahel since their intervention to prevent the fall of Mali in 2012. We work in close partnership with France in Africa, and we are grateful for the critical support they provided to our forces in Niger last October.
That is the strategy. The authorities under which DOD personnel implement this strategy in Niger are varied, an array of fiscal, operational and legal authorities govern the various activities of U.S. military forces.
These activities could include training and equipping, or advising and assisting local security forces, airfield operations or force protection, among others.
Some authorities to conduct these activities derived from legislation under Title 10. Others are derived from presidential authorizations, promulgated in DOD orders, including a 2012 order authorization issued by the previous administration.
Further, U.S. military activities in Niger are conducted at the request of the host nation. We are there to support Nigerien operations that are being conducted under Nigerien authorities.
Let me reiterate. Neither the strategy nor the authorities that U.S. forces use to implement it envision U.S. forces conducting combat operations in Niger.
Nevertheless, in Niger, as in any place on the Earth, U.S. forces possess the inherent right to respond with necessary force in self-defense, if attacked.
This, regrettably, is the terrible situation that our special forces in Tongo Tongo found themselves in on October 4th, 2017.
GENERAL WALDHAUSER: General Cloutier?
GENERAL ROGER L. CLOUTIER: In October of 2017, General Waldhauser appointed me to conduct an investigation into the enemy attack on U.S. and Nigerien forces near TongoTongo, Niger.
To do this, General Waldhauser gave me extraordinary resources and latitude to determine the facts and circumstances, and to report on those tragic events.
My first responsibility was to the families of the fallen. I held the solemn responsibility, my duty to provide the families of our fallen a thorough and accurate investigation. I also understood the need to be thorough, accurate and transparent about our findings to our leadership, the Congress and to the American people.
To help me gather and understand the evidence, I formed a team of experts to assist me. The team included Special Forces officers, intelligence officers, doctors, attorneys, Nigerien language and cultural experts, communication specialists and air planners.
I also conducted with the U.S. -- or consulted with the U.S. intelligence community. Over the course of this investigation, we interviewed 143 witnesses, including 37 American and Nigerien survivors of the attack. We interviewed every eyewitness that we could find, including villagers in TongoTongo and members of the American, Nigerien and French militaries.
We assessed and weighed the credibility of the testimonial evidence by corroborating eyewitness accounts with physical, photographic and video evidence. We traveled to six countries, analyzed thousands of pages of documents and photographs and watched hundreds of hours of video evidence.
We reviewed news reports about the attacks and pursued leads to confirm or deny those reports. We returned to the site of the attack to conduct an investigative site survey. Along with Nigerien investigators, we spoke with Tongo Tongo villagers and collected evidence in a five square mile area surrounding the attack site.
We were accompanied by a Nigerien survivor of the attack and the Commander of the Nigerien Response Forces, who walked us step-by-step through the events of the attack. The site survey was critical to our investigation.
We found the ambush site and the surrounding areas to have been largely undisturbed. We collected physical evidence from the site of the attack and locations from where each of our heroes fell. And we submitted this evidence for forensic analysis.
No single survivor of the attack that we interviewed had a complete picture of the events of the 3rd and 4th of October. It took a tremendous volume of evidence to corroborate the accounts and to establish the facts. The report and its exhibits became more than 6,300 pages of evidence.
As a result, I can say with confidence that no one has a better grasp on what happened in Tongo Tongo than the members of my team. But in spite of our efforts, there's limits to what we have learned. There are things about the 4th of October that I will never be effective -- able to effectively convey to you in words.
My description of the events today will not do justice to the bravery of the men involved. It will likely not fully capture the intensity of the enemy attack or the conditions under which these men made split-second decisions.
Finally, I cannot overstate the courage with which our forces fought on the 4th of October.
DANA W. WHITE: I would just add that we keep our questions, want to have as many people as possible get to ask questions. So I'll give you a follow up, but if you could keep them concise. Lolita?
Q: Hi, Lolita Baldor with the Associated Press. General Cloutier to you, can you tell us -- there's a lot of talk about -- and confusion about the mission that was sent out first, this -- the mission that they actually went on initially.
If they -- if they had submitted an accurate picture of the -- of the mission that they were going to go after, would they have been equipped, manned or supported in -- any differently, any -- any greater level than they were with the mission that they sent to go -- to do a key leader engagement?
With -- and would there have been more ISR, stuff like that? And then a follow up to -- to General Waldhauser, you said you take responsibility. Can you just tell us sort of broadly what you think you could have done better to either prevent or address some of those problems that were found?
And have you done -- what have you done broadly on African operations? Have you scaled them back, limited any authority of commanders, have you done anything specifically that effects operations in Africa as a whole as a result of this?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So I'll go first Major, if you don't mind. So on the issue to what could we have done different, what could we have done better. I think from the combatant commander perspective, and I try to make this in my opening remarks.
The whole concept of by, with and through is a strategy that needs to get down to the lowest level in chain of command. Our forces are there to help build partner capacity, our forces are there to help partner nations be able to take care of their own security as -- as appropriate.
As indicated in Robert's comments, I mean Niger is one of the poorest countries in the nation, in the African continent. They're surrounded by ISIS, AQIM, Boko Haram, they have some significant security challenges. So we're there at their request.
So the point of the by, with and through strategy is that the tactical operations are conducted by the partner force, not by our U.S. forces. Our authorities are there to keep us out of direct combat, so it's important that gets reemphasized.
That's one of the things we've done from the COCOM level. The second part of that, Lolita, was?
Q: Is the -- the broader operations in Africa, did you scale them -- did you scale them back? Did you put any restrictions, that sort of thing on it?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So the way I like to -- we like to characterize that is what we've done is we are now far more prudent in our missions. The missions that we actually accompany on have to have some type of strategic value in terms of the enemy we're going against, do they have a strategic threat to the United States?
We have increased, which I won't go into details here, but we have increased the firepower, we've increased the ISR capacity, we've increased various response times. And what this has done is it's allowed these teams perhaps to not to do the tempo that they would like.
But it provides adequate and more resourceful force protection measures in order to still keep up with the enemy forces on the ground. So we have beefed up a lot of things posture wise with regard to these forces.
GEN. CLOUTIER: And had the first mission been properly characterized, they would have been required to have beenapproved at a higher level. And by being approved at a higher level, it would have received more oversight from the chain of command.
And that higher level chain of command would have decided what resources were required to support the mission.
Q: Right, but would it have been -- since this is based on General Waldhauser's comments with the by, with and through emphasis, would it have even been approved?
GEN. CLOUTIER: I -- I'd be speculating on what decision the higher level commander would have made. But it would have gone to his level and he would have provided that oversight.
MS. WHITE: OK, Tom?
Q: General Waldhauser, when you look at this report you read contradicting and ambiguous operational process -- approval process, lack of attention to detail, quality control, lack of situational awareness, planning problems, training problems,across the board with the special operators in Africa.
So in layman's terms, how would you characterize this? Are they sloppy, are they cowboys, are they taking too much risk? What would you tell the American people about this?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So let me take a training issue first. The training issue really becomes a manning and staffing issue back at home station. The training program that has been -- that all the SOF teams use is adequate, it's appropriate, it prepares them for what they need to do when they not only deploy to AFRICOM, but other AoR's around the globe.
The key issue I think with regards to training is the manning piece. If you don't have the people there at the appropriate time to conduct the training, if they come late, if the leader in this case comes late, it impacts the ability to develop cohesion, it impacts the ability to have a team that's been formed well before they go forward.
With regards to what happened in-country, the issue becomes the time spent to integrate and work with the partner force. There're all kind of significant challenges, not the least of which is simply things like language.
So we -- we -- if you get to a position on -- in an operation where you're under enemy contact, you need to be able to operate like clockwork without having to speak because you know the drills.
And in this particular case, the team did not conduct those basic soldier-level skills that would -- that are really necessary to go on an operation such as this.
Q: But, again, how would you characterize the special operators? I mean, you said there was -- the problem was all the way up the chain. Are they sloppy, or are they -- what -- how would you characterize them?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So this particular case, what the investigation shows is that this -- the -- the CONOPS, for example, that was...
Q: I'm talking about in general, with -- with...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Right.
Q: ... special operators in Africa, how would you characterize their behavior?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: I think that the general -- generally, from my observations and the evidence that this investigation found, is that special operators are doing a fantastic job across the continent.
They work under some extreme conditions in the African continent. They have to be able to make decisions about whether to or not to take -- to go into certain operations.
Because if the -- the assets that they need are not there today, they need to be able to come back tomorrow when they have them.
So the bottom line is, the special operators on the continent are serving well. They're -- they -- they do high-risk missions and, based on my observations, this particular -- this particular team is not indicative of what they do.
Q: But, again, you're saying lack of...
MS. WHITE: Take a question in the back…
Q: ... questions that...
Q: General Cloutier and General Waldhauser, a couple of specific questions. Noting, none of us have actually seen the report, and you've said very little about precisely what happened here, let me ask a couple of very specific questions, if I may.
First, is it accurate that they filed a false report saying that they were going to go after a high-value target and that they were not authorized to do that mission? Can you explain that?
My second question is, can you tell us how long, once the battle broke out, specifically, how long it took to get medevac and QRF rescue forces to the Americans, and why did it take so long? What was that timeframe?
And my last question is, fundamentally, I do not understand something here. You have described that you now are adding additional equipment, weapons, firepower, vehicles, re-checking training.
How do you put a team out there that doesn't have that? It's 2017. You know you're in an area -- this is not a regrettable instance, this is an instance where you already know you're in an area where terrorists operate, otherwise you wouldn't be there.
How is it that you have put a team out there that doesn't already have the necessary firepower, weapons and vehicles that you're now going to give them? If you could answer those three questions.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Well, let me take the -- the last one first, and then General Cloutier can provide the details on the timelines that you requested.
I think it's important to understand, contextually, that -- that there have been many enemy -- there has been enemy activity in the northern Nigerien mountain border area. This was known to -- to all concerned.
The special operations component had done an assessment for armored vehicles, for example, and determined, a while back, that they weren't necessary.
Primarily based on the fact of -- of trafficability, roads, weather and the like, and the fact that the partner forces there had the -- the vehicles that they did.
That's one of the things that this investigation brought out, and we immediately directed that armored vehicles be given to those teams as an option. They should have the choice.
Because if the situation is such that the -- the roads, the trafficability could handle armored vehicles, then they should have that option.
So that's an example of -- of trying to learn from this, trying to -- to put into practice some of the things that we -- that we learned.
Q: General Cloutier? And then I do have a follow-up.
GEN. CLOUTIER: The -- the first American aircraft arrived on scene one hour and 31 minutes after the first report of enemy contact.
Q: Sir, is that Medevac or QRF?
GEN. CLOUTIER: That is U.S. ISR platform.
Q: I see.
GEN. CLOUTIER: That was the first aircraft to arrive on station. Nigerien ground QRFs arrived just under four hours after the initial call of enemy contact, and then the medevac aircraft that eventually withdrew the team arrived approximately five hours and 43 minutes after the initial contact began.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So -- so I think it's important, if I could, to -- to underscore here at this point that part of the thought process of the commanders who have the authority to make the decisions to eventually send this team on this mission, they had oversight -- ISR over this site for over six hours. And in that six-hour period, they determined that the site was at -- was -- was cold. There was nobody there.
Q: That's not where the battlefield took place.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Correct. The -- the -- the battle -- the battle took place on the way back, 20 miles or so from...
Q: But you did not have ISR on the battlefield site, and it took you five to six -- whatever hours...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Well, as -- as General Cloutierwould say, or will tell you, the ISR then, at that -- once the team went through objective at Tongo Tongo, the ISR was overhead. The decision on the ground was made to send that ISR platform north to observe crossing points on the Mali border. So after the mission was complete, there was ISR available. It was sent north.
Q: Why did you think it was appropriate for AFRICOM to investigate itself, and not turn this over to independent military investigation?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So -- so I'll -- I'll take that. I mean, obviously, as the combatant commander, I have responsibility for what goes on in the AFRICOM AOR. And as a consequence, I felt that my -- it was, you know, my obligation to go ahead and do this. I'm well aware of the -- the -- of the optics, but if you compare it, we -- I mean, to -- that's why I talk a little bit about the components.
So we have a -- a two-star lead Special Operations component command who runs operations and -- of Special Operations force on the continent, so we essentially -- it -- it'd be like a division going to investigate a regiment or a battalion. So knowing that, General Cloutier, and I think, if given the opportunity today to -- to -- to tell -- show you what he's learned, and so forth, I think he -- it'll underscore that he, in fact, did a transparent investigation; that he -- he got all the facts, and I'm very confident that his thorough -- that his job was done thoroughly, and without any type of prejudice.
So I don't view it -- in some, I -- I -- I don't view it as AFRICOM inspecting itself, or investigating itself. It's my responsibility as the commander to do so, and in the early stages when we discussed this, this was determined to be the appropriate way to go.
Q: Gentlemen, thanks for your time. Dan Lamothe with the Washington Post.
A couple of questions on transparency. At this point, we're eight months out or so from this. We have eight pages, and eight pages alone. I know there's a longer report. I know there are 6,000 pages that probably need to be declassified and worked through. Can you provide us any timeline on when that might occur?
And furthermore, we have a video that's been released by the Pentagon today. It's significantly shorter than what was shown to Congress earlier this week, when speaking with Congress members. Why was that video shortened, and will that be released, as well?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Well, I'll take the first one on, with regards to when the investigation will be finally released. Actually, I'm not quite sure. I mean, we could have waited until that was all redacted, which is a very laborious process, line by line for 6,000 pages. We've hired additional help to help us complete that at AFRICOM. But what we want -- But instead of delaying, what we wanted to do was get the information to the families after this amount of time.
General Cloutier's investigation was about three months. The review process took the time that it did because it's complex, and the chairman and the secretary, to get their arms around it, needed to have time to just process all the information.
So we wanted -- in sum, we wanted to get the information to the families. We're working to get the -- the investigation redacted, and I can't tell you to date exactly when that will be.
Q: Yeah, I'm going to have a follow-up for General Cloutier, but first, General Waldhauser, I'm a little bit confused here. You said at several points, you're accepting responsibility. At the same time, we have these two lower-level captains, O-3s, that made the decision to file false paperwork. Who's to blame? Is it a lower-level captains, or is it the overall culture within AFRICOM that allows this to happen?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Well, let me try to explain it this way. As the combatant commander, I have certain roles and responsibilities from the strategic perspective, and I'm responsible for all military -- U.S. military operation on the continent.
That said, we have component commanders, then, who is, in their charge, Special Operations Command Africa in this particular incident. It's -- it's his responsibility, his job to conduct, oversee various -- the -- the Special Operations all over the continent.
Moreover, we also have the -- in this particular case, you have the Army, the service provider who trains, organized and equipped. They have a role in this, and you have Special Operations Command out of Tampa who also has a role in this, as well. So I have responsibilities as the combatant commander. The service has responsibilities. The other COCOM, in this case, has responsibilities. So that's how the -- it -- it works.
Q: This is a pretty diffuse set of responsibilities. Will anyone be held accountable?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: The secretary was very clear, and as I've tried to make in my opening remarks, the secretary is very clear as designating the Army and SOCOM to -- to take all specific means, and within the law and regulations to identify and ensure appropriate accountability takes place, and that includes anything that may not have been addressed in the investigation. So the -- the -- the accountability itself squarely rests on the shoulders of the Army and the United States Special Operations Command, as directed by the secretary.
Q: OK, General Cloutier, just to follow on -- on the timeline, there are three different missions that are described. Could you walk us through when those happened, and when those changed? For example, when did they go from the first mission, whether it was key leader engagement, or the kill or capture, when did that get shifted to the backup QRF and then ultimately, then, to the third mission, which was site exploitation?
GEN. CLOUTIER: Right. So the first mission begins at approximately 0559 hours on the morning of the third. They complete that mission at approximately 1400 on the afternoon of the third. As they are traveling back to base, that first mission is complete. They received a change of mission at approximately 1800. From there, they begin moving north on their second mission to serve as a QRF, and then they received a change of mission at about 01 on the morning of the fourth.
Q: OK, and at 559, that initial mission, what are they going out to do? They're going out to do a kill or capture, or are they going out to do key leader engagement?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So that first mission was the one that was not properly characterized. It was characterized as a civil military reconnaissance, when it was actually focused on the ISIS GS subcommander.
Q: Just one clarification: Clearly, the mischaracterization was -- was wrong. But can you draw a direct and definitive link between that and the ambush that happened the next day?
GEN. CLOUTIER: No, so the first mission that was not properly characterized, the unit executes, completes, and that mission is over and done, despite not properly being characterized. They are returning back to base. That mission does not result in the attack in Tongo Tongo.
Q: And -- and then have you been able to figure out why it took them an hour to call -- or -- or to relay that they had come under attack?
GEN. CLOUTIER: Yeah, so the -- the evidence would indicate that up until that point, they -- they believed it was a small enemy force that they could handle, and then at that point, when they made the final radio transmission, they realized that it was a much larger force.
Q: Secretary Karem and General Waldhauser, I wonder if you could tell us how -- driving forward, we -- we're told to expect a lot more of these kind of missions across N’Djamena. It's a very large area. How much of this incident, and -- and an indication of any lack of resources or attention there that's -- that's needed?
You mentioned a lot of changes that -- including, you know, training and force protection. But do you have enough to do what they have to do across this large area in the future, and is the policy in place...
Q: ... that either maybe prevents future incidents like this, or connects to the rest of government for -- for the ultimate goal of these nations, which is supposed to be greater security?
SEC. KAREM: Do you want to start with the...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So first of all, I would just say that our...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: ... intention, our guidance remains the same. In this part of the continent of Africa, is to maintain our relationship and continue to support the French, for example, in the -- in their lead in this particular area, in the Mali-Niger area. So the -- the mission is, essentially African-led, French-assisted and U.S.-supported.
Asset-wise, I mean, if you look at the threat there, the reason we're in Niger to begin with is to prevent something from happening. To prevent some of these violent extremist organizations from taking over the ungoverned spaces where they could eventually, perhaps, cause all kind of problems for the -- Niger, the region, Europe and potentially the United States.
So we're there in a preventive way, to help those partner forces be able to take care of their own security. So the assets that we have there now, we don't anticipate any additional forces, for example.
And it's our -- our role to continue to work with our partners. Especially, in this case, the French, to keep them in the lead as they conduct their operations there as well.
SEC. KAREM: With respect to the policy side of it, I think the report reaffirms, in many ways, the value of a “by, with and through” approach.
And I -- the secretary and the chairman are constantly reviewing, with respect to the requirements and -- and assets. The global distribution of forces to ensure that it's aligned, not just with our national defense security priorities, and alert to the rising challenges posed by competition with Russia and China, but also to emerging threats like North Korea, in addition to the threat that -- that violent extremist organizations pose.
So they are constantly reviewing the global distribution of assets. But I think that the secretary very much believes that whether it's in the Middle East or in Africa, an approach that is focused on enabling the capabilities of local partners and working in concert with other allies and partners who have as much, if not more, of a stake in this than we do, is the right approach.
Q: So (inaudible) within the forces you already have, or forces going forward? I mean, we hear already, you know, commanders complaining of not having enough ISR or enough bases, much less the potential numbers of special operators needed to do the policy mission that's been asked of the force.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: We don't anticipate any significant change in the assets that were provided. I think that, as I tried to indicate earlier, the mindset in terms of direct combat operations conducted by the partner force.
And if -- if there are occasions where we would accompany, then if the resources aren't available or that -- if the -- if the team and the -- does not believe or the -- the leadership within the chain of command who has the approval authority on these, if they don't have what they need, they need to come back the next day with and if they have the -- the assets they need.
Q: Hi, Lou Martinez, ABC News.
If I could -- if I could just go back to the point, that you're all stressing by, with and through. Which implies a support mission.
If there is a kill-or-capture mission for a high-value target, which appears to have been the case, here, at multiple levels, not only just the -- the captains who approved the first mission, but also the battalion commander who approved the -- the second mission, if I'm correct.
Would those -- are those proper authorities for U.S. troops to advise and assist on kill-or-capture missions? Or would they not be allowed to do so under the by, with and through?
And then I just have a clarification for both of you.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So let me try to explain the structure of the by, with and through and -- and the -- the direct action or direct combat mission, as you referred to.
Once again, that direct combat or capture-kill, as you describe it, will be conducted and -- you know, by the partner force, not by U.S. forces.
And so U.S. forces are not to be involved in direct combat. So these missions are -- are put together. The missions are drawn up so that U.S. forces are not in direct combat.
So in other words, if there was a target to go to, our U.S. forces don't go to that target. they stay -- they stay behind, they -- it's a little bit of an art, not necessarily a science. You can't really say "You've got to stay back 500 yards," or "you can only go this close."
But once you're on the ground, these -- the -- the individuals know for certain, they are not to participate in whatever direct combat mission on a target that would take place.
So these missions are designed to be conducted by the partner force. U.S. forces are not involved in direct combat. We're there in a support and advisory mode.
Q: So in this case, the -- the first mission, it appears that the officers took it upon themselves to lead the mission. Am I correct in that?
And also in the second mission, the second team, apparently, was also going to be the lead in -- in that mission. Can you verify that as well?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Go ahead.
GEN. CLOUTIER: ... so on the second mission, it involved two -- two teams. One team that was flying in on helicopters from another location, was the main effort or the primary force. And Team Oallam was the secondary force, or the supporting force.
Q: But were the advisers to be the primary or were they advisers and not...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: The advisers were never intended to be the primary individuals to conduct the capture-kill.
Q: Correct. But that's -- does that mean that they were, that they believed that they were the primary?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: No. No, in fact, the -- the mission, as it eventually turned out, which -- when Team Oallam was given their third mission, at that point in time, as we indicated earlier, there had been ISR over that campsite for hours, five to six hours at least. No one was there.
So the mission was a sensitive site, clear -- a -- a sensitive site for intelligence. And I think it's important to underscore why, then, was that mission undertaken? Why was it so important to send those people up there?
And I think there's -- there's really two reason that I think are important to understand for context. And the first one is that that particular individual they were after is -- had notorious connections to all kind of various violent extremist groups in the Mali-Niger area, so there would be, perhaps, an intelligence that would help in that regard.
And then moreover, we've had an American citizen by the name of Jeffery Woodke who has been captured and held hostage in -- somewhere in that area for the last year and a half, and there was a possibility that this individual would -- and -- and what they might find at that target would be a piece of the puzzle of the whole government approach, to try to return American who's been held hostage for over a year and a half.
Now in that particular mission, the individuals who were going to sweep through that site with no enemy were the Nigerien forces. It was -- it was not U.S. forces who would lead through that.
So the -- so that mission, once again -- and that was rehearsed at their last position, before they went the last five or 10 miles to -- Roger can -- can give you the specific details, but they were -- they practiced their movement across the objective and how that would take place. But that, again, was to be conducted by the partner force, not U.S. forces.
Anything you want to add to that?
GEN. CLOUTIER: No. That's correct, sir.
Q: Gentlemen, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, New York Times. (Inaudible) General Cloutier, General Waldhauser.
Yeah, I'm -- I'm a little confused on this first concept of operations. On the eight-page executive summary, you gave just about as many lines to them, that 3212 putting on their personal protective equipment, as you do to the first concept of operations.
And, you know, one thing that remains completely unclear is, what type of mission that you'd decided that it went from a recon mission to, now, a counter-terror mission against a named target, like you said, General Waldhauser, was very significant in the region, and how that amount of intelligence about one target made two captains decide to go after him, or get in the general area or find him when -- I mean -- so you're saying that those two Captains were the only ones who knew about this piece of intelligence that had them go to this part of the country to look for him.
And then somehow, in the midst of all that, you had ISR find in a different area -- and now a Lieutenant Colonel was involved in chat. Can you just clarify why -- why were you on that?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So again, the first mission was not properly characterized. In the concept of operation, it was characterized as a civil military reconnaissance. That CONOP was put together at the team level and submitted to the AOB or the company level, where it was approved incorrectly by that Acting AOB commander.
Q: ... also Lieutenant Colonel (inaudible) would have to have signed off on that, as well.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Had it been properly characterized.
Q: ... no knowledge that that first operation was taking place? He had no knowledge that (inaudible).
GEN. WALDHAUSER: He thought it was a civil military reconnaissance.
Q: Right, but you also had ISR looking for this. And I understand that, you know, ISR's pretty much a strategic level asset. So how do you put ISR, (inaudible) to Tiloa if it's just up there on a civil military reconnaissance?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: The ISR was controlled by the AOB at that time, and it was put over Tiloa. And then after that first mission in complete, and they're returning back to their base, it's directed by the AOB further north to continue to look.
Q: General Cloutier, can you explain in layman's terms what were the key mistakes that were made from your point of view? What did they do wrong after your investigation? And General Waldhauser, have you or will you recommend punishment for those involved in these mistakes?
And are you recommending that those who died be considered for valor awards?
GEN. CLOUTIER: Well, I think the first point is that all of our soldiers fought valiantly that day. And there were a series of contributing factors to what occurred in Tongo Tongo. But none of those contributing factors are the direct cause of the enemy attack in Tongo Tongo.
The direct cause of the enemy attack in Tongo Tongo is that the enemy achieved tactical surprise there, and our forces were outnumbered approximately three to one. So there's a series of -- of findings that we have identified from pre-deployment training through the relief in place.
The transfer between the outgoing team and the incoming team. Some basic soldier skills and requirements that they should have executed as with previously addressed -- previously addressed by General Waldhauser.
There was the -- the concept of operation that was not properly characterized, and then there was some processes at all levels of the chain of command that need to be improved.
Q: When you say mischaracterized the -- the plan, did they basically lie about what they were doing?
GEN. CLOUTIER: That's not what the evidence indicates. It indicates -- that's not what it indicates.
Q: And General Waldhauser?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: With regards to the punishment. So it's very clear, the secretary's direction, that SOCOM will eventually -- will now have the responsibility for taking appropriate action to ensure accountability.
In the investigation of 23 findings there, I think three findings that call out the certain individuals for -- for activities -- the CONOP piece for example that is clearly unacceptable. The recommendation by the investigating officer, by General Cloutier is to SOCOM for appropriate action.
And that's the appropriate response. We don't recommend punishment, we recommend appropriate action. So there are three cases in there that will be dealt with by SOCOM. Then moreover, following on to that, SOCOM has been tasked that anything that's not in the investigation identified in that regard, that they should take a look at that, as well.
So these chain of command issues with regard to oversight for example, for some of the -- the integration training with the partner force that didn't take place. I'm sure this is something that will be looked at very closely, because that has to be taken very, very seriously.
Now with regards to the awards, I think it's important to answer that. Is that -- the short answer's yes, there will be awards. And one of the reasons it's taken a while is because we didn't get involved in the award process while the investigation was ongoing, because that would have led it crossways with information and the like.
So there -- the chain of command from the unit up through I believe it's going to go through the -- through SOCOM, up through -- SOCOM will be the final adjudicating authority, but there will be awards for valor in this case.
Q: Which awards are you recommending?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: At the moment, we don't -- we at AFRICOM don't recommend the award. If we're in the approval process we will, but at the moment to be quite honest, I'm not sure if we're in the process, because we're going to use the same -- the same chain if you will that CENTCOM uses, and we're going to use and whether or not we get a chop on that is to be determined.
MS. WHITE: David (inaudible)?
Q: So just a point of clarification General, so the -- so you did not recommend that disciplinary actions be taken against these three individuals? You just recommend that they -- that the -- that the facts be looked at and the actions, if warranted to be taken, is that correct?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So -- so my job was to determine all the facts, and then I recommended that appropriate action be taken as decided by those chains of command.
Q: And also there's a reference in the report to a delay in the recovery efforts for Staff Sergeant Johnson, because of the beliefs that he might have been held hostage in a nearby village. What happened there? Tell us more about it.
What's the nature of this report and how much did it delay the -- the recovery efforts?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So the -- the search for Sergeant La David Johnson began immediately, as it did with our first three fallen heroes. There was some reporting that indicated there could be a soldier held hostage somewhere north of TongoTongo.
Of course that report was taken seriously and assets began looking there for signs of life or anything like that. It turned out to be an errant report. But the search for Sergeant La David Johnson never stopped. He -- he ran 960 meters.
He ran a long way from where he was last seen, and he made his last stand where he fought to the end under a dense, thorny tree. Took a long time to find him.
Q: There is a reference in the report to a delay in perhaps recovery of the remains -- not sure exactly what the delay was. But are you saying there was not a delay in -- in searching for Staff Sergeant Johnson?
GEN. CLOUTIER: The search for Sergeant Johnson never stopped. It was continuous, it involved ISR assets, numerous ground forces that were looking -- looking for him. The -- the report of the soldier being held hostage, other forces began looking in that direction.
But -- but it was -- it was never stopped.
MS. WHITE: (inaudible)?
Q: Yes. General, if you could talk a little more about what exactly these two Captains mischaracterized in the CONOPs. I mean was it -- is it the title of the CONOPs, is it the content inside of it? Is it something like a level -- level zero CONOPs being described as a Level 1 CONOP?
And how did this -- what did they mischaracterize exactly and how did that slip through?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So the -- the CONOP for the mission that -- that they undertook on the 3rd, the -- the paperwork that was submitted, the packet was identical to a previous CONOP. So it was done hastily and there was a lack of attention to detail.
Q: And if I could do a follow-up -- if I could do a follow-up on that. What -- why did they do that? I mean what -- did you ascertain any motives as to why they filed this -- this false or sloppy CONOP?
GEN. CLOUTIER: It wasn't a deliberate intent to deceive, it was -- it was lack of attention to detail.
MS. WHITE: David Martin?
Q: That was my question.
MS. WHITE: All right. Jeff?
Q: Thank you. General Waldhauser, Jeff Schogol with Task & Purpose. Will any commanders in a supervisory role who were part of the chain of command face disciplinary or administrative action for leadership failures that contributed to this incident?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: That will be up to SOCOM to decide, and again, in the -- in the report there were three or so specific findings, as General Cloutier had just described, that discuss about appropriate action. Inappropriate for -- for us, at this point time, to say specific punishments. But again, the chain of command responsibilities will be looked at with the -- with the agency the secretary designated, which is SOCOM, to do that.
Q: And one quick follow-up: Do you believe any of the U.S. service members who fought in this incident deserve to be recommended for the Medal of Honor?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: I don't have that level of detail at this point in time, and that will come up from the process.
Q: General Cloutier?
GEN. CLOUTIER: Sir, my -- my finding indicates that there were numerous acts of extraordinary bravery that occurred on that day, and they should be adjudicated as SOCOM deems necessary. There -- there were acts of bravery.
MS. WHITE: Tom.
Q: Sir, sirs, good afternoon. Tom Squitieri with Talk Media News.
You mentioned U.S. forces and that Nigerien -- Nigerienforces were outnumbered three-to-one. Is this the largest force U.S. troops have faced in country?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: The short answer is yes, and that's one of the -- that's the tactical surprise that we talk about, and part of the thought process of the commanders who approved this mission. Yes, it was a dangerous area. Yes, they knew the activities went on there, but they had never seen anything in this magnitude -- numbers, mobility and training. It was a -- it was a total tactical surprise, in how were they -- in how that took place.
Q: Thank you.
MS. WHITE: Tom Watkins.
Q: Hi, thanks. Tom Watkins, AFP.
Can you just talk a little bit more about the -- the French involvement -- how many Mirages were they -- were there? How low did they fly, and why -- why they didn't engage the -- the enemy?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So there -- there were two French Mirage aircraft. First of all, the French response played a significant role in -- in our soldiers' surviving. Two French Mirages responded. They conducted four shows of force, and they put their aircraft right at treetop level, and they were instrumental in driving the enemy forces away.
The situation on the ground was unclear. There were communications issues, so their ability to communicate with the team on the ground to know exactly where U.S. soldiers and Nigerien soldiers were, versus the villagers of Tongo Tongomade the situation on the ground unclear, and so they couldn't clearly identify targets, so they didn't engage.
Q: So the pilot couldn't speak to the ground forces.
GEN. CLOUTIER: They could not.
MS. WHITE: (inaudible)
Q: General Waldhauser, (inaudible) with Hong Kong (inaudible) I have a question other than the Niger ambush, which is there were two U.S. airmen who was (sic) injured -- with minor injury in Djibouti last week, and China has already declined, which was, quote, "the accusations on China was completely inconsistent with the -- with the facts." Have you talked with any Chinese officials recently of this?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Demarches and such were handled through the State Department. I've talked to some military officials in Djibouti, but the State Department has handled that.
Q: How -- tell us something, in the evidence about the incidents going on of lasing?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: I -- other than the fact that it's happened several times, and it's a -- it's a -- it's certainly very, very dangerous for the pilots to fly in there in that regard, and we're very concerned about it, obviously.
Q: Are you still confident -- confident that it -- it was the Chinese, then, who was...
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Regardless of the locations, it took place.
MS. WHITE: Eric Schmidt?
Q: Eric Schmidt, for the New York Times. Sirs, thank you for doing this. Just to help unpack a little bit of this timetable on this second and third activities they're involved in, General Cloutier, that you said at 1800 on 3 October is when they got the second mission. Presumably, this is when they'd gotten the new intelligence where Cheffou is, and you've -- the team is launched from Arlit. The 3212 is now on the backup role. But you've also talked about the ISR soak over this area, at some point, determines the campsite is cold. When is that determined? And how does that relate to then the subsequent re-missioning at 0100 on 4 October, when it's just turned into site exploitation. And then I have a follow-up.
GEN. CLOUTIER: So Team -- Team Oallam arrives at their QRF, their Quick Reaction Force location at approximately 2300 hours. Team Arlit is en route on aircraft at that time, and that's when the weather turns bad and they're forced to abort.
So they get the new mission at approximately 01, so during that two hour period ISR is still over that objective area. And in that six hour -- hours of continuous ISR, they observe no enemy activity. So they receive a change of mission at approximately 01, or 1 -- 1 in the morning.
And they begin moving north to clear what we have called Objective North.
Q: ... determines the camp site is -- Cheffou is in the wind, he's gone.
GEN. CLOUTIER: When they receive a new mission, that's when the battalion commander makes the decision to send them north.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: But I think you're referring to no activity at the site, is what -- no activity.
Q: ... 2300?
GEN. CLOUTIER: At 2300, Team Arlit has to abort the mission and return to base. And then between 2300 and 01 the next morning, there's continuous ISR. And that's when the battalion commander makes the determination that there's no enemy there and they can move forward and clear the mission -- or clear the objective.
Q: So by the time they establish the position, the QRF, they're waiting for the assault force to come. They're still under the belief -- may be in that area.
GEN. CLOUTIER: No, sir. It -- there -- there was no indications that the enemy was there, even though Team Arlitwas going to fly in.
MS. WHITE: Courtney, go ahead, I’ll come back around,Courtney ?
Q: All right, thank you, Courtney Kube from NBC News.
I know you don't want to speculate on prior paper -- or the paperwork, you know, if it had -- would have been approved if they had actually filled it out, saying it was going after a key leader as opposed to a recon mission.
But had prior missions like that been approved for this unit? Was there -- was there a history of them going on these kinds of missions where they were actually looking for an individual?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: This -- this particular team -- team -- no, to my knowledge. I'd have to check that, but to my knowledge they had just been in -- in the country for about a month. They had done two previous key leader engagements, which is as General Cloutier explained kind of where that CONOP came from.
But this was their third mission, and consequently the first of this nature. I -- I -- but I -- I ...
Q: ... is it fair to say that prior missions to go after key leader have never been approved or just have never been submitted? I'm sorry, not a key leader, to go after a HVT, had never been submitted or approved? Do we know?
GEN. CLOUTIER: The current team had not done a mission like this, the previous team had done missions like that.
Q: And then if I could ask you, there have been reports that -- I know that specifically lays out that they were never captured alive, any of these individuals who were killed. But do you have any indications that they were actually in the hands of ISIS at any point?
Or there was an attempt by ISIS to remove any of the remains?
GEN. CLOUTIER: The -- the -- the evidence is pretty clear that, you know, our fallen heroes were stripped of any serviceable equipment and three of our servicemen, two were found in the back of an enemy vehicle and one beside it.
So they were driven off by French aircraft. And so the evidence indicates that there was an intent to take them with them.
Q: Is there any video of that or anything you have? Or is that -- is that all just based on the -- what you -- the French ..Mirage...
GEN. CLOUTIER: That -- that's based on the forensics from the -- the Nigerien ground QRF's that arrived and found them in that way.
MS. WHITE: OK, we're going to do this really quickly. Jack?
Q: General, thanks very much. Question about the ISR, talked about how the ISR was over the camp site, determined it was cold. But at any point was the ISR monitoring the route that the team was going to take as they headed back?
And is -- if not, why not -- is that something that's been changed, where the routes are monitored more closely now, given that you had this campsite where you thought you had Cheffou. Then they left, they could've been elsewhere in the area?
GEN. CLOUTIER: So as the team completes its mission on the area we define in the report as Objective North, that's the area just south of the Mali border. They're complete with their mission at about 8:30 in the morning.
And as they get ready to depart to return back to their base, the team commander directs the ISR that he has overhead to return to the border area to look for crossing points, areas where the enemy is crossing back and forth over the border.
So ISR was overhead, directed to move north to the border.
Q: Thank you. I have a clarifying question, please. You said that three were found near a vehicle that -- the remains were found, suggesting there was an intent for enemy forces to take -- to hold their bodies. Is the -- is that then fair to say that Sergeant La David Johnson was never in enemy hands and his remains were never in enemy hands?
GEN. CLOUTIER: Go ahead, I'm sorry.
Q: I'm sorry. And also, Dan had asked earlier about a video that had been produced to sort of spell out what happened. And that's the one presented to the Hill was I believe -- 22 minutes long, and the one that has been presented to us is 10 minutes long.
Given that you've talked a lot about transparency, can you help us understand why that video was cut by half?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Let me just take -- if I can, I'll take the video question first. The video that was shown to Congress was 21 minutes in length. It's extremely detailed, goes into a lot of specific activities right there on the ground.
I think the thought process was that that today would have been, I don't know, too much information and -- and maybe not -- in other words, more time to take questions.
Q: Can we see the video?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So -- so Sergeant La David Johnson, first of all died actively engaging the enemy. He was never captured alive, his hands were never bound. His body was treated like all the other remains, both U.S. and Nigerien.
His serviceable equipment was stripped and taken from him. But he was never in enemy hands alive. They did have access to his remains and took his equipment.
Q: But he was in the same spot that he did in essentially?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Absolutely.
Q: OK, and one qualifying questions ...
MS. WHITE: Please, I'm trying to get to as many people as I can. Corey?
Q: Thanks. General Waldhauser, Corey Dickstein.
Can you talk about the state -- the current state of this group of ISIS-GS. Have U.S. or Nigerien forces engaged with them since? And you know, what changes -- well you've talked about the changes, but -- but have you -- I guess have you targeted this group at all in Niger since?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Well ISIS-GS is one of the many violent extremist groups in that particular region of the Mali Niger border. They change allegiances quite frequently, because there's -- there's underpinnings to AQIM and a group called JNIM, Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin.
So they change allegiances out of convenience all the time. I think it's noteworthy to point out that they did not take responsibility for this until sometime I believe in January. We did not know exactly what the name of the group was.
But I think you could check this, that in January, I think towards the end, they -- that took responsibility. I would just say that it would be inappropriate for me to talk about operations that are ongoing to -- with those -- with that particular group.
But be assured that working with our partners in that area, we are following that group.
MS. WHITE: Last question to Tara.
Q: Thank you. Tara Copp, Military Times.
General Waldhauser, this is actually kind of a follow on to Corey's question. Have there been any HVT missions approved since then that have been executed successfully?
And then also, there were reports in the last couple weeks that Cheffou had actually been potentially killed or captured. Can you comment on those reports?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So two things. On the -- on the Cheffou capture or being in jail, or captured or killed in other -- other places, look, in -- in this part of Africa, myths and lies are notorious, and once those were checked out -- There were two separate occasions that I'm aware of, where the Nigerienauthorities thought they may have had him. But upon further scrutiny, it was determined it was not him.
As far as other HVT operations inside Niger, none have taken place since this particular time.
Q: (inaudible) that have been approved?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: None have been approved because none have been taken place in Niger since -- since that time.
MS. WHITE: OK, (inaudible)
Q: General, one quick follow-up. You said there's no American combat role here.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Direct combat. Direct combat.
Q: Apparently in this case, they were in combat.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Well, as a result of collective self -- self defense.
Q: Well, I understand there have been troops in contact before. How often does that happen, in your experience happen?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: So in -- in...
Q: How many times have Americans come in contact?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: In the last year, approximately 10 times, and the majority of those are in Somalia where we have -- we are actively -- we have active operations ongoing there. And a -- a tick could be, you know, something as -- as simple as a -- a small arms fire from a long distance away, but these missions where we accompany partner forces to objectives are designed so that enemy contact is not likely for our forces. But ticks have happened in the past. They get reported. Yeah.
Q: What about in Niger?
GEN. WALDHAUSER: In Niger, I think it would -- I think the December tick that happened was a result of a -- It's a different type of operation in part -- part of Niger. That's by Diffa, which is by the Lake Chad basin area, with Boko Haram, another one of the threats that threatens the entire border of the country of Niger. In this particular occasion, it was a -- We were partnering with a force that was much larger. It was battalion-sized, as I recall. And at that point in time, there -- for -- for that particular tick, French aircraft, Nigerien aircraft, artillery by the partnered force was all used.
So these -- these groups, our partner forces are in areas where danger is. But in that particular case in December, you can see that there was -- it was a different context, in terms of Boko Haram, their activities there, and the force, the size of the force that was being partnered with.
MS. WHITE: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you all. I'm happy -- we're happy to take more questions, but these guys have to go, but of course, we're happy to take more questions.
Q: Thank you, because we have waited seven months. Can you just tell us, General Waldhauser, to your knowledge, did the CIA's involvement in the mission, in the role of the troops there, did that play -- did you gentlemen find any impact that the CIA's involvement had in what they were doing?
MS. WHITE: We're happy to take that. We will come back to you. Absolutely, we will come back to you.
GEN. WALDHAUSER: Thank you all very much.
Q: Thank you, General. Thank you General.