THE US. MILITARY intervention that the US political and Pentagon establishment never talked about is suddenly in the news after a joint patrol comprising 12 U.S. troops and 30 Niger soldiers was attacked by a small group thought to be an ISIS affiliate and known as ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS).
The attack, which took place outside the village of Tongo Tongo, near the border with Mali, left four U.S. Army Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead and many more wounded, along with numerous ISIS-GS forces.
Even the incident itself was little mentioned until Donald Trump--after two weeks of silence on the matter--offended the family of soldier La David Johnson in a characteristically insensitive condolence call to his widow Myeshia Johnson.
Beyond Trump's predictably poor communication skills, the attack on the patrol has generated controversy over a host of tactical questions: Was there a breakdown in U.S. intelligence that left the patrol vulnerable? Was the attack an ambush engineered by ISIS-sympathetic villagers? Did nearby French forces respond quickly enough? Did U.S. forces "leave" La David Johnson behind by failing to retrieve his body until 48 hours after the assault? Why were the soldiers traveling in unarmored vehicles?
These questions have generated a debate over the immediate next steps for military operations in Niger and Africa as a whole. Sen. John McCain has threatened to issue subpoenas for a congressional inquiry, while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to hold hearings at the end of the month on the authorization of the use of force against ISIS.