The U.S. military suspects that an individual in a Niger village could have alerted the attackers who killed four U.S. Army Green Berets earlier this month of the U.S. military presence in the area, according to The Associated Press.
A U.S. official told the AP that the four U.S. soldiers and about 30 Nigerien forces had stopped in a village to get food and water after an overnight mission, but were ambushed after they left the village by roughly 50 armed enemy fighters.
The official said the team of U.S. and Niger soldiers was assisting another American commando team that was pursuing a senior al Qaeda member who was thought to be in the area.
However, since the insurgent they were searching for was no longer in the area, they did not believe the mission would be dangerous.
The report comes as questions have swirled around the attack.
Lawmakers including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats press Schumer on removing Confederate statues from Capitol Democrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that before the attack they were unaware the United States had 1,000 troops in Niger and surrounding countries.
The White House alerted Congress in June that the United States had about 945 troops in the region. U.S. Africa Command’s 2017 posture statement to Congress also mentioned “approximately 1,000 personnel conducting 12 named operations across a nine nation region” in West Africa.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford has pledged to be more transparent with the media, Congress and the public on the attack.
“We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened, and we owe the American people an explanation of what their men and women were doing at this particular time," Dunford told reporters at the Pentagon.
“The only thing I’m asking for today is a bit of patience to make sure what we provide to you, when we provide it, is factual.”