Pentagon Addresses “high turnover and the assignment of new members” After Deadly Niger Ambush

Communication gaps between teams, caused by instability of field relationships, has been faulted for the ambush that killed US Green Berets:

“The Niger 15-6 investigation found that there were areas where training was insufficient, including pre-deployment collective training for Team Ouallam due to high turnover and the assignment of new members,” Maj. Karl Weist, an AFRICOM spokesman, said Wednesday in a statement to Military Times. “As a result, a recommendation was made to address areas of improvement.”

Expansion of force and new facility is one of the improvement areas already underway and nearing completion, according to the same article:

The U.S. Air Force is also close to opening Niger Air Base 201 on the edge of the Sahara Desert, which is the largest airmen-led construction project in the history of the service, according to Air Force Capt. Mayrem Morales, a U.S. Air Forces Africa spokesperson.

The base’s total cost will be roughly $98.5 million, according to Morales. The base will eventually house the U.S. armed drone mission in Niger that currently operates out of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

This news comes only a month after the Pentagon suggested nearly the opposite plan, that turning over control and assignment of new members would help their efforts in Africa:

“They can do it on their own,” Waldhauser said. “That would be an example of a country where we have worked ourselves out of a job.”

Niger was also listed in the Times’ interview with [Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the leader of U.S. Africa Command] as a country where local forces are getting to a point where they may soon not need U.S. oversight on missions, despite that country being the place of the deadly October ambush. The Pentagon’s investigation into the attack found shortfalls that led to the disaster stemmed from a lack of “command oversight at every echelon.”

And just for good measure, to really confuse everyone about the value of teamwork and clear communication channels, Waldhauser also told the NYT “the United States would still ‘reserve the right to unilaterally return’ to protect American interests”.

So clearly the US is committed to engaging more closely with teams in the field to open better lines of communication and bringing more investment to avoid disasters…by initiating a draw-down of forces, handing things over completely while reserving the right to appear anywhere anytime as they decide alone.

To be fair, drawing-down and handing things over can also mean teamwork. Perhaps there was an American advisory role that led to the French claiming the ability to track down one of the leaders of the group that took responsibility for the ambush, killing him and nearby civilians (bodyguard, and unidentified woman with a child) in a new airstrike report.

Mohamed Ag Almouner — a top leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara — was found dead after an airstrike Sunday night by two Mirage jet fighters, the French army said Monday.

This followed a report from the US four months ago targeting members of the group involved in the ambush and their leadership:

One of the three militants that led the ambush, Doundoun Cheffou, is most likely alive, according to government documents that were described to The New York Times by two United States military officials who were not authorized to discuss them publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The other two militants — Tinka ag Almouner and Al Mahmoud ag Baye, the latter of whom is believed to have trailed the team of Americans until shortly before they were attacked — were killed in the ambush.

Two higher-ranking militants are also likely alive and connected to the attack, although it is unclear how, according to one of the military officials.

At the meeting, the officials also discussed methods to help track the militants who participated in and helped orchestrate the ambush — an endeavor that could take years.

…or apparently just a few months, given teamwork as well as communication improvements. So there is turnover, and then there is turnover.

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