Top US general: Military requested hostile fire pay for Niger troops 'months ago'

Top US general: Military requested hostile fire pay for Niger troops 'months ago'
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The general in charge of U.S. military operations in Africa said on Tuesday that he asked for troops serving in Niger to receive extra pay for being subjected to hostile fire “months ago,” and that the decision now rests with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“We submitted that with Niger and other countries in the area where it is dangerous several months ago to [the Office of the Secretary of Defense],” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command, told the House Armed Services Committee. “My understanding is it is at OMB for reconciliation. But we have made that request a while back.”

The issue of so-called Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) for troops serving on the ground in Niger was raised after four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush there in October.

Africa Command has wrapped up its investigation into the ambush, and the results are now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump needs a national security adviser who 'speaks softly' US could deploy 150 troops to Syria: report Trump blasts 'Mr. Tough Guy' Bolton: 'He made some very big mistakes' MORE and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

On Tuesday, Waldhauser declined to discuss the investigation, saying the families of soldiers killed need to be briefed before he will discuss it publicly.

“Once the secretary completes his review and the families have been briefed, I intend to provide a comprehensive and detailed account of the investigation to you as soon as possible,” he told the committee.

Asked by committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryRepublicans pour cold water on Trump's term limit idea Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks MORE (R-Texas) if he knows when that might be, Waldhauser replied, “I really don’t.”

“It’s up to the secretary now to review and for him to be comfortable with the information in this exhaustive investigation,” he said.

Thornberry and other lawmakers said they understood Waldhauser’s inability to discuss the investigation, with the Texas lawmaker adding that’s “despite some purported leaks in the press this morning.”

Thornberry was apparently referring to an Associated Press report about the investigation that said the Army Special Forces team did not get senior command approval for its mission to capture a high-level militant.

Despite the avoidance of Niger questions, Rep. Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyHouse committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations House votes to repeal ObamaCare's 'Cadillac tax' Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One MORE (D-Conn.) asked about the pay issue.

He said he received an email from a constituent serving there who asked why troops in Niger and Mali don’t receive the hostile fire pay when troops elsewhere in Africa, including Algeria, Chad, Egypt and Kenya, do.

“We know enough about the incident from public hearings in this committee that it was a violent and vicious event,” Courtney said.

After hearing the decision on pay is now at the OMB, Courtney said he thinks “that’s something that a lot of members might be interested in following up with OMB to make sure that they do the right thing.”