Prior to his election, Donald Trump was quick to attack the Obama administration, in particular, his then-opponent Hillary Clinton, for its role in the Benghazi controversy. Now, however, it seems the president may have only narrowly avoided being at the center of a similar scandal, Salon reports.
In 2012, under President Barack Obama, a United States consulate in Benghazi was attacked and four Americans were killed. In response, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives ordered a litany of congressional investigations, including the formation of a special committee that conducted a two-year, $7 million investigation which would ultimately last longer than the Watergate probe.
Five years later, four American soldiers were ambushed and killed in nearby Niger. In the almost two years after the attack, House Republicans have opened no probes similar to those looking into Benghazi. Now the Pentagon has closed its own investigation into the incident, stating that there will be no discipline for military commanders who ordered troops into a dangerous situation with little plan and no backup to be had.
The ambush in Niger was, in fact, the largest loss of American life in combat in Africa since the infamous 1993 incident in Somalia that would eventually be turned into the film Black Hawk Down. While some suggested at the time that the situation had the makings for a presidential scandal early in Trump’s first term, some House Democrats are now describing a coordinated cover-up.
So what happened in Niger?
A captain in charge of a routine patrol was ordered to do reconnaissance on an apparently empty camp near the village of Tongo Tongo on the Niger-Mali border in pursuit of a high-value target. An American helicopter team pulled out of the mission, with their commanding officer saying his troops did not have the appropriate equipment nor intel to proceed.
The mission, however, continued without them.
The team, including the American soldiers as well as dozens of Nigerian soldiers, were attacked as they returned from the site by a large group of Islamic State militants who had been tracking them for hours. The militants were comprised of about 50 men with substantial firepower.
At first, the Pentagon confirmed the deaths of three U.S. service members as a result, with two more wounded. It was later found that the Department of Defense withheld details about a fourth soldier who went missing during the ambush. Details about the fourth soldier would emerge when his remains were found by Nigerien forces two days later.
Further investigation by the Pentagon would reveal multiple layers of deception around the mission, including concealed motives as to what they were doing there and why.
“Everything we’re seeing right now is basically a cover-up that’s occurring at the Pentagon and among general officers,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, a Marine veteran on the Pentagon’s subsequent probe into the Niger ambush.