New details have emerged regarding the attack that left four US soldiers dead in Niger, labeled by some as a "massive intelligence failure." Per the New York Times, which interviewed military officers, Pentagon officials, and lawmakers, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. La David Johnson somehow became separated from their unit during the Oct. 4 militant attack, which also left five Nigeriens dead and whose "shifting narrative" is now being scrutinized. Specifically, answers are being sought on why these four US troops were left behind initially when French helicopters flew onto the scene two hours after the ambush began and rescued seven other Americans, and why it took two extra days to find and retrieve Johnson's body from a wooded area near the attack location.
The Times says the four soldiers were at first deemed MIA by the Pentagon, indicating they were believed alive when the French choppers left; US officials contend American, French, and Nigerien forces were still on the ground. The Pentagon also said Thursday this unit had been backup for a second one on the hunt for an Islamic operative, though that second unit's raid had been called off, per CBS News; the ambushed unit was told to stay behind and gather evidence. Meanwhile, a Nigerien soldier who arrived on the scene as the attack wound down tells CNN he saw troops "ready to fight until the end" and that he'd run into the unit the day before—nowhere near ready for combat, dressed in "T-shirts and baseball caps" with just one heavy machine gun among them and no body armor. US officials say it wasn't anticipated the troops would come into contact with hostile entities during their mission. A more in-depth look at the Times and CNN. (Read more Niger stories.)