President Donald Trump’s interaction with Gold Star families has been the lead story on many cable news networks for the past several days, but what actually happened in Niger and what are American troops doing there?
Karen Attiah, the Global Opinions Editor for the Washington Post, says the incident is raising questions about whether a large number of special operations forces are actually helping to make Africa safer and keep Americans safer.
“The threat is quite complicated and quite complex,” Attiah says. “What Americans at the very least need to know is we’ve at least been in Niger since the Obama administration, since 2013 at the very least, and we were there to support the French, who have been very active in this region – very active in Mali, very active in Niger. And so we were there to support their counter-terrorism efforts.”
Attiah says the terrorist groups in the region, like Boko Haram, aren’t well understood.
“To be honest, sometimes we’re not even quite sure how these groups morph, how they- whether or not they are recognized by these broader groups,” she says. “We haven’t really seen that these groups even necessarily have the capability or the desire to strike international targets.”
Confusion about the enemy isn’t the only problem – even members of Congress don’t seem to have information about where American troops are in Africa right now.
“Just yesterday, General Dunford, who oversees these operations, is saying that we have about 6,000 troops stationed across Africa – including Sahel, but also in Somalia, Djibouti, Tunisia, Senegal,” Attiah says. “We’re largely relying on these special operations forces that are increasingly fighting these sort of unconventional and assistance type of operations. But again, we have lawmakers who said they had no idea we had potentially up to 1,000 troops in Niger.”
Written by Jen Rice.