Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Monday, at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference (AUSA) meeting in Washington, D.C., “We are training, advising and assisting indigenous armies all over the world, and I anticipate and expect that’ll increase, not decrease, in years to come.”
The US Army is reportedly working to expand its training and advising role for foreign military forces via new Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) that are now being established. A first SFAB is now standing at Fort Benning, Georgia, where a total of five in the regular army and one in the Army National Guard are expected.
This announcement comes in light of last week’s attack on US Army 3rd Special Forces Group in Niger, Africa. Three Green Berets and a fourth soldier were killed during an ambush by local jihadist militia fighters, with two others from the same small Special Forces unit were injured. The unit was carrying out a force multiplying mission with local military units when they came under attack near the Niger-Mali border on October 4th.
Update #3: U.S. Africa Command statement on situation in Niger – https://t.co/UMVj7AXnEL pic.twitter.com/lmHo2jtW3T
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) October 6, 2017
The operation was part of the AFRICOM’s (US African Command) mandate to provide Nigerian Forces with training and security assistance in their battle against the emerging extremist groups in the region. Economic insecurity in Africa, combined with an increase in violent extremist organizations has created instability across the Sahel and the region.
According to a statement by Army Col. Mark R. Cheadle, the mission “was meant to establish relations with the local leaders and the threat at the time was deemed to be unlikely … But our allies the French were very quick to respond with their assets immediately upon notification that it was needed”.
As part of these operations, the US has provided Niger with a small number of Special Forces members. These members help perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. The US has also provided Niger with access to US drone and SIGINT capabilities.
It is believed that the ambush was carried out by elements of the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram. The primary enemy in Niger is the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram and al Qaeda’s North African branch, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.
US Army 3rd Special Forces Group is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and has Africa has part of their speciality. AFRICOM has in recent years sought to expand its operations in Niger, and is looking at establishing a small base outside of Agadez, the largest city in Niger, to support its counterterrorism efforts in the region.
The Pentagon released the names of three of the fallen soldiers on Friday. They are Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Army Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Army Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. The fourth fallen soldier’s name will be released after next of kin notification procedures are complete, DoD officials said. The fourth soldier had been missing and found dead after a two-day search by AFRICOM and allies, which included the French.
No members of the Nigerian reconnaissance and patrol unit that the US Army Special Forces team was embedded with were injured in the attack.
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