Trump Is Distracting From a Necessary Conversation About the U.S. Role in Niger

Trump Is Distracting From a Necessary Conversation About the U.S. Role in Niger
Myeshia Johnson cries over the casket of her husband, Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in an assault in Niger, Miami, Oct. 17, 2017 (WPLG via AP).

The most common reaction to the deaths of four United States Army Special Forces in Niger earlier this month seems to have been surprise that the U.S. had any kind of military presence in the country in the first place.

In the wake of the ambush, which has been blamed on yet-to-be-identified Islamist militants, various media outlets placed it in the context of a broader American “shadow war” carried out in “one of the most remote and chaotic war zones on the planet” despite “little public debate” back home.

But for those who track the various military efforts to combat jihadi groups in West Africa’s Sahel region, the presence of U.S. soldiers in the country—in fact, there are around 800 of them—was no surprise at all. Rather, it was these soldiers’ apparent lack of familiarity with the terrain that stuck out.

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