In the wake of the attack on US soldiers operating in Africa, precisely Niger, on October 4th, 2017, President Donald Trump has come under intense criticism. First, it took the White House a long while before publicly addressing the issue. Second, when President Trump finally did, he said past Presidents have not addressed these issues like he is doing. This resulted in a back lash particularly from the American public.
What President Trump does not seem to realize is the fact that the Presidency of the USA is one of the greatest political offices in the world and that its occupant has become – perhaps with one exception, – the most powerful head of Government known to our day. His public pronouncements and actions are watched with keen interest throughout the world.
As a result, on Wednesday 25th October 2017, when President Trump said he did not “specifically” authorize the Niger mission that killed four U.S. soldiers earlier in the month when asked by reporters whether he gave the go-ahead for the operation and Trump said: “No I didn’t. Not specifically”, he portrayed himself as someone who does not take responsibility for his actions. Denial of knowledge of such operations only shows negligence and irresponsibility on the part of the President. From Presidents Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, US Presidents have shown great responsibility in the discharge of their duties.
While it’s unusual for US Presidents to distance themselves from military operations that result in loss of American life, Trump said he supports the overall mission in the West African nation as he said “I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have,” he said. “I want to win. And we’re going to win and we’re beating ISIS very badly. You look at what’s happening in the Middle East “. Yes, President Trump alongside the US Allies is really defeating ISIS.
However, comparatively, the US soldiers may be inexperienced but particularly very well trained. And this dates back in time to the Second World War and particularly the Clearance of Africa during that war. The US forces have always shown tact and skill when compared to other militaries operating alongside it. This is why one but wonders little when the Pentagon’s top general said that the Army Special Forces combat patrol in Niger did not anticipate resistance and called for air support one hour after being attacked by ISIS-affiliated militants who used small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.
It is however not surprising that it was French fighter jets that arrived to support the US troops, but four U.S. soldiers were already dead. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a briefing that the 12-member U.S. patrol did not anticipate being attacked and that the U.S. rules for troops in the area prohibit missions when attacks are likely. Good rules, but are rules alone sufficient when fighting an asymmetrical war and in this case, an Ideology?
As a way of finding out what really happened, Marine Gen. Dunford said the Pentagon is investigating whether the mission changed after the patrol went out and whether the troops were adequately equipped. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have also requested a briefing on the Niger attack.
Several weeks after the attack, there are still many unanswered questions regarding the purpose of the operation, the circumstances surrounding the ambush and the military response to the tragedy. The Niger attack has become more controversial as President Trump falsely claimed that previous presidents had not made condolence calls to the families of fallen troops. This is a sign of the dissatisfaction among the US public in his attempt at self praise. After that claim was debunked, and Trump walked-back some of his comments, he called the widow of Sgt. LaDavid Johnson, who was killed in the attack.
Bottom line here is that it is unexpected of the US President to deny the missions of his military outside of America. While as Africans we remain grateful to the US for its military support, we however think that such military actions should be carried out with close cooperation with the local militaries. It is difficult to be in possession of valuable intelligence without the support of the locals and especially the local militaries, something that tact and skill alone would not give.
President Trump is expected to boldly admit his errors and take corrective actions as regards the operations of US troops in Africa to forestall further deaths of US soldiers while strengthening the cooperation between American military and African militaries, enhance the security in the region through collaboration and at the same time, fight the ideological war that ISIS is waging which obviously cannot be totally won on the battle field.
President Trump is advised to put up the expected behavior of a sitting US President to make America “great again”. One wonders if America ever lost its greatness.
– Jereaghogho Efeturi – Ukusare