Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Thursday that the “US military does not leave its troops behind” but did not provide additional details into why the body of Sgt. La David Johnson was recovered nearly 48 hours after his 12-member team was ambushed by 50 ISIS fighters in Niger.
“The US military does not leave its troops behind and I would just ask that you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” he told reporters.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters Thursday that US, French and Nigerien forces “never left the battlefield” until Johnson was found.
Three senior US officials told CNN on Wednesday that Mattis wants answers regarding the ambush in Niger two weeks ago.
Mattis is dismayed at the lack of detailed information he has received about the attack, but there is no indication he is trying to unduly hurry the investigation being carried out by US Africa Command, according to all three officials — all of whom are in a position to have knowledge of how Mattis views the situation.
“This was a hard fight, this was a very tough fight,” Mattis told reporters last week — providing little detail about what multiple US officials have described to CNN as a scene of confusion on the ground during an unexpected firefight.
“I believe they’re still looking into the details of that,” Sanders replied. “But I don’t think that the President can ever be satisfied when there’s loss of life from men and women in uniform.”
Details related to the deadly military breakdown remain murky two weeks after the incident in Niger as investigators work to determine precisely what happened, a US official has told CNN.
Experts working for Africa Command are trying to establish an hour-by-hour timeline of what happened as part of a comprehensive investigation that includes all the military branches and elements of US intelligence agencies that were involved in the mission.
Officials who have spoken to CNN have cautioned that as the investigation continues new information is likely to emerge and their understanding of what happened could change.
Very little has been said publicly, but the information that has emerged in the wake of the attack paints a troubling picture of what transpired.
-Culled from CNN