NEWS

This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

An attack in Niger that left four American Green Berets and five Nigerien soldiers dead earlier this month has sparked a nationwide debate over how the Trump administration has handled the incident.


During a condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of one of the men who was killed, President Donald Trump reportedly told her that her husband "knew what he signed up for." Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida, a friend of Johnson's family who listened to the call on speakerphone, called Trump's remarks "insensitive."

Also read: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

In response, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Wilson an "empty barrel," and said he was appalled that the congresswoman shared what she heard on that call. Trump fired off several tweets calling Wilson "wacky" and disagreeing with the widow's impression of the call.

As the feuding continued, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford held a press conference at the Pentagon on Monday addressing reports that the Trump administration was withholding information about what really happened in Niger.

Here's what we know about how the attack unfolded, according to Dunford's timeline:

October 3: A reconnaissance mission

A U.S. Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Flintlock is a Special Operations Forces exercise geared toward building interoperability between African and western partner nations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros)

Dunford said 12 members of the US Special Operations Task Force joined 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission from Niamey, Niger's capital city, to an area near the remote village of Tongo Tongo.

October 4: The day of the attack

Tongo Tongo in Niger. (image Google Maps)

US soldiers and the Nigerien troops met with local leaders to try to gather intelligence information, Dunford said. Some of the soldiers stayed behind to guard their vehicles, a US defense official told CNN.

As the meeting came to a close, the soldiers became suspicious when the village leadership started stalling and delaying their departure.

When US troops started walking back to their vehicles mid-morning, they were attacked by approximately 50 militants. Dunford said the enemy was likely from an ISIS-affiliated group of local tribal fighters.

The militants fired on the US-Nigerien patrol team with small arms, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. This apparently caught the Americans and Nigeriens by surprise.

One hour later: US troops request reinforcements

A French Mirage fighter aircraft drops flares as it performs a high-speed pass during the French live fire demonstration near Arta Plage, Djibouti, Jan. 14, 2017. The Mirage and other fighter aircraft use flares as a countermeasure against incoming heat-seeking missiles. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Christian Jadot)

An hour into the firefight, the American soldiers asked for support to thwart the attack.

Dunford said a drone arrived overhead "within minutes," although it was only sent to gather intelligence. French Mirage fighter jets capable of striking enemy targets arrived at the scene "within an hour."

Later that afternoon, French attack helicopters arrived along with a Nigerien quick reaction force as well.

Sgt. La David Johnson was somehow separated from the rest of his unit. US military officials were not able to explain how or when exactly that happened.

"This [attack] was sophisticated," an intelligence official told ABC News. "Our guys not only got hit hard, but got hit in-depth."

Responding to questions about why the US troops didn't request reinforcements sooner, Dunford said he wouldn't judge why it took them an hour to ask for backup.

"I've been in these situations myself where you're confronted with enemy contact, [and] your initial assessment is you can deal with that contact with the resources that you have," he said. "At some point in the firefight, they concluded they then needed support, and so they called for additional support."

That night: US soldiers evacuated

Members of the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and French military board a French SA-330 Puma helicopter during air-to-water qualification training near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Oct. 17, 2013. The U.S. and French members conducted this operation to enhance communication and build a stronger relationship to ensure Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa members are continually ready to support military operations in East Africa to defeat violent extremist organizations.

French military Super Puma helicopters evacuated US soldiers who were wounded during the firefight to Niamey.

Three soldiers killed in action were also evacuated: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. One soldier, Sgt. Johnson, was still missing.

October 6: Johnson's body is finally discovered

Sergeant La David Johnson and three other soldiers were killed in action in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

Dunford said US officials continue to investigate how Johnson separated from the team and why it took 36 hours to recover his body.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, meanwhile, has insisted that Johnson was not "left behind."

"The US military does not leave our troops behind, and I would just ask 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 said.

An intelligence official told ABC News that Johnson's locator beacon was giving unclear reports, and he seemed to be moving.

"Johnson's equipment might have been taken," the official said. "From what we now know, it didn't seem like he was kidnapped and killed. He was somehow physically removed from where the combat took place."

That same day, the Pentagon identified the three other soldiers who were killed.

October 7: Johnson's body is returned to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland

Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.

October 16: Trump first addresses the incident publicly

During a press conference at the White House, CNN asked Trump why it took so long for him to come out with a statement about what happened in Niger.

"If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls," Trump responded. "A lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate."

Obama administration officials pushed back hard on that claim, calling it false.

That exchange was the first time Trump addressed the Niger ambush publicly.

Tuesday, October 17 to Monday, October 23: The condolence call controversy

Trump, Kelly, and Wilson exchanged barbs last week, disagreeing over what the president said during his condolence call with Myeshia Johnson, Sgt. Johnson's widow.

The Gold Star widow broke her silence on Monday, saying that Trump had trouble remembering her husband's name and told her that "he knew what he signed up for." Johnson said she cried after she got off the phone.

After the interview aired, Trump tweeted, "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!"

"If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can't you remember his name? That's what made me upset and cry even more," she told "Good Morning America."

October 23: Dunford outlines key details in the attack

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

In a 45-minute briefing on Monday, Dunford acknowledged that many looming questions about the attack are still unanswered.

Questions he's hoping the military's investigation can uncover include:

  1. "Did the mission of US forces change during the operation?"
  2. "Did our forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training?"
  3. "Was there a pre-mission assessment of the threat in the area accurate?"
  4. "How did US forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sgt. Johnson?"
  5. "And why did they take time to find and recover Sgt. Johnson?"

"These are all fair questions that the investigation is designed to identify," he said.

(Featured image: Nigerian army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Department of Defense photo.)

Entertainment

5 times Americans left to fight in foreign wars

In the past few years, dozens of veteran and civilian Americans left the comfort and safety of their homes to tackle what they saw as an unspeakable evil growing from the Middle East — the Islamic State. A new television documentary series from History followed those Americans as they fought with Kurdish fighters in Syria. The show pulls no punches in showing what combat looks like on the front lines of the fight against the world's most ruthless terrorists.

You can catch Hunting ISIS every Tuesday at 11pm on History but read on and learn about how and why Americans fought the good fight long before their country was ready.

"I heard the stories, I knew that ISIS was evil," says PJ, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq. "But you can never understand the brutality that they're capable of until you see it with your own eyes... Most people in America aren't able or willing to come over here," he says. "And for them, I will carry what weight I can."

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Melia Robinson

Why splitting California into 3 made the November ballot

Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.

Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.

Draper's proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018's general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

This band hires vets — especially when they go on tour

As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
Christopher Woody

Why China's President warned Obama about 'immature leaders'

Days after Donald Trump won the 2016 US presidential election, Barack Obama left the country for his last trip abroad as president.

The trip took him to Greece, Germany, and finally Peru, where he attended the 2016 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Throughout the trip, anxious world leaders greeted Obama, inquiring about the man who would soon occupy the Oval Office.

That sentiment was on display in Lima, where "Obama was pulled aside by leader after leader and asked what to expect from Donald Trump," the former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in his memoir of his time in the White House, "The World as It Is."

Keep reading... Show less
NEWS
John Haltiwanger

Trump and Mattis go 'good cop, bad cop' on Putin

President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis offered strikingly different perspectives on Russian President Vladimir Putin in the course of just a few hours on June 15, 2018.

Speaking with reporters outside of the White House, Trump blamed former President Barack Obama, not Putin, for the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

"President Obama lost Crimea because president Putin didn't respect President Obama, didn't respect our country and didn't respect Ukraine," Trump said.

Keep reading... Show less

5 things about the M16A4 that you complained about

The M16A4 was the standard service rifle for the Marine Corps until October, 2015, when it was decided that the M4 Carbine would replace them in infantry battalions. For whatever reason, civilians tend to think the M16A4 is awesome when, in reality, it's actually despised by a lot of Marines.

Now, the M16A4 is, by far, not the worst weapon, but it didn't exactly live up to the expectations laid out for it. They're accurate and the recoil is as soft as being hit in the shoulder with a peanut, so it certainly has its place. But when Marines spend a considerable amount of time in rainy or dusty environments, they'll find it's not the most reliable rifle.

Here are some of the major complaints Marines have about the weapon:

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

The Army has a dream team working on its robotic future

As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.

The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.

Keep reading... Show less