Earlier this week, flustered about a reporter’s question as to why he had not yet mentioned the 4 fallen Army green beret soldiers who were killed on the 4th of October in Niger by ISIS affiliated terrorist, he immediately pivoted to talking about how President Barack Obama didn’t always contact the military Gold Star families who had lost a loved one in war.
With his off-the cuff remarks, the president touched off a brief firestorm with the unfounded charge, but without offering any real answers about what happened to four service members that were killed in Niger.
UPDATE ON 10/21/17:
Risks to military and civilians have increased in Niger since the Chad military fighters left Niger soon after the republican President Donald Trump placed Chad on the US travel ban around September 24, 2017. He did this despite the vast majority of foreign policy experts advising him not to take this step. It turns out that better skilled Chad soldiers were the ones who had kept militant groups like Boko Haram at bay in Niger. In short, any military personnel traveling in Niger will need to be better protected because of this increased risk.
Because there have been various conflicting accounts of what occurred on the 4th of October, several investigations are on-going to determine what happened.
As per a 10/18/17 NBC News report, “The U.S. military is still searching for answers on what happened in Niger two weeks ago when four U.S. soldiers were killed during an ambush, apparently by a branch of ISIS.”
“Now the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent a team to the African nation to conduct a “review of the facts,” according to 2 U.S. defense officials. The officials are careful not to call the inquiry an investigation, but admit they simply don’t know what happened on Oct. 4.”
“We need to collect some very basic raw facts,” one defense official said.”
On October 16, 2017, David A. Graham of The Atlantic penned the following report, “Why Trump Accused Obama of Not Consoling Families of Fallen Soldiers.”
“On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were killed during an operation in Niger. Since then, the White House has been notably tight-lipped about the incident. During a press conference Monday afternoon, 12 days after the deaths, President Trump finally made his first public comments, but the remarks—in which he admitted he had not yet spoken with the families and briefly attacked Barack Obama—did little to clarify what happened or why the soldiers were in Niger.”
“Trump spoke at the White House after a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and was asked why he hadn’t spoken about deaths of Sergeant La David Johnson and Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Dustin Wright, and Jeremiah Johnson.”
“I’ve written them personal letters,” Trump said. “They’ve been sent out or they’re going out tonight, but they were written during the weekend. I will at some point during the period of time call the parents, or the families. Because I have done that traditionally. I felt very, very badly about that. It’s the toughest call—the toughest calls I have to make are the calls where this happens. Soldiers are killed. It’s a very difficult thing. Now it gets to a point where you make four or five of them in one day, it’s very very tough. For me that’s the toughest.”
“NBC’s Peter Alexander challenged Trump on that claim a few minutes later in the press conference, and the president softened his claim, at least with regard to Obama.”
“I don’t know if he did. I was told that he didn’t often. A lot of presidents don’t. They write letters. I do a combination of both. Sometimes it’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “President Obama I think probably did sometimes and maybe sometimes he didn’t, I don’t know, that’s what I was told. Other presidents did not call, they’re write letters, and some presidents didn’t do either.”
“This is classic Trump rhetoric. Any time he is challenged on any action, he promptly compares his own record to past presidents. He doesn’t require that the comparison be true. Having claimed that Obama didn’t call families of slain soldiers, Trump promptly backed down—he didn’t argue that Alexander was wrong, he just changed his claim.”
“There was immediate outcry, from aides to various former presidents. Ari Fleischer, press secretary to President George W. Bush, told HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel that Bush wrote letters to families and often met with them in person. Alyssa Mastromonaco, a former aide to Obama, tweetedthat it’s “a fucking lie … to say President Obama (or past presidents) didn’t call the family members of soldiers” killed in action. Tommy Vietor, a former Obama spokesman, wrote in an email that the 44th president “spent time with families of the fallen and wounded warriors throughout his presidency through letters, calls, visits to section 60 at Arlington and regular meetings with gold star families.”
“The broader question, of what the soldiers who were killed were doing and what went wrong, remains unaddressed by the president, and Trump’s jab at other presidents may, unfortunately, help to keep it that way. The Special Forces soldiers were deployed to Niger, as Sanders mentioned, in an advisory role. The government has been spare with details about what they were doing or why troops who were supposedly only working in an advisory and training role would have been out on a patrol where they were ambushed.”
“CNN reported that the ambush occurred as they exited a meeting with local leaders. This is not the first time that U.S. service members have been killed in combat while supposedly not in combat roles. The Obama administration appeared to blur the lines between training and combat for such deployments, and the Niger case raises the possibility that the Trump administration is doing the same.”
“But U.S. Africa Command has formally said only that the four slain soldiers were working on a counter-terrorism mission, without more details. Trump, meanwhile, is happy to talk out of school about former presidents, but he remains tight-lipped about why the slain soldiers were in harm’s way.”
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