Deaths of Green Berets in Niger Spotlight U.S. Military’s West Africa Presence

Deaths of Green Berets in Niger Spotlight U.S. Military’s West Africa Presence
Nigerian special forces run past Chadian troops in a U.S.-led hostage rescue exercise, Mao, Chad, March 7, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent.

An ambush in Niger that killed three U.S. Army Special Forces and five Nigerien soldiers this week focused attention on the U.S. military’s presence in West Africa, a region typically seen as France’s domain. The attack, which marked the first time U.S. troops were killed by a militant group in Niger, occurred Wednesday about 120 miles north of Niamey, the capital, near the border with Mali.

It was not clear if the Americans were specifically targeted. The International Crisis Group noted that two militant groups—the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and a jihadi alliance headed by the Malian Iyad Ag Ghaly—have claimed responsibility for recent attacks on security forces in the area. Such groups are skilled at exploiting intercommunal conflicts to fuel recruitment, especially the marginalization of Fulani herders. Nevertheless, The New York Times reported that “Pentagon officials expressed shock” after the attack, and indicated that U.S. officials were reviewing threat assessments and how specific operations are approved.

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