The Pentagon has started briefing the families of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger last October, and the military acknowledges a series of missteps contributed to the deaths, one family member told NPR.
“I think in any instance where people lose there lives, there were obviously mistakes that were made,” said Will Wright, the brother of one of those killed, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright. Will Wright is himself a combat veteran, having served as a staff sergeant in Afghanistan. He and his family were briefed by military officers on Thursday.
“Having seen combat, having an understanding of combat situations, you’re always going to make mistakes, you’re never going to do it perfect. There are things you wish you could change every time,” Wright told All Things Considered co-host Ari Shapiro.
Asked if the military briefers described the failures on this mission, Wright said they did. But he added, “Out of respect for the families that haven’t received their briefings yet, I’d like to avoid specifics.”
The officers did tell Wright that the U.S. troops in Niger now have assets they did not have before, including armed drones and armored vehicles.
The Pentagon has sent the classified report on the Niger ambush to Congress. The report has not been released publicly, but an official who has seen it described it to NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. The official said there was both a lack of planning and training for the mission.
The report also raises questions about whether U.S. Special Forces in Niger are taking too many risks.
Five years in Niger
Twelve Americans, led by Green Berets, joined with a larger force of Nigerien troops on a routine patrol last Oct. 3 in the southwest part of Niger, near the border with Mali.
Americans forces have been in Niger since 2013 to train, advise and assist the Nigerien military in its battle with extremists linked to the Islamic State. The Americans are not supposed to take part in combat unless they come under fire.
As planned, the Americans and the Nigerien forces met with village leaders and spent the night. But instead of returning to their base the next day, the troops received a new mission. They were told to look for intelligence in an area where a militant leader had apparently fled.
According to the official who has seen the report, a lower-level officer signed off on this new mission, and higher-level officers were not aware of the change in plans.
The U.S. team was not expecting to encounter any militants and did not have heavy firepower or air support.
But the American and Nigerien forces ran into an ambush and were overwhelmed by some 50 fighters in a two-hour shootout in the village of Tongo Tongo.
The four Americans killed included Wright, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Sgt. La David Johnson. Two more Americans were wounded, and five Nigerien soldiers were killed.
“As a veteran myself, the fog of war is something that’s hard to unravel,” Will Wright said. “Having the details [from the military], it really helped put things in context.”
President Barack Obama sent the U.S. troops to Niger five years ago, and around 800 are believed to be in the country. The Americans are building a drone base, but do not have a large airfield for manned aircraft that could mount a rescue mission.
“We as a nation are involved in Africa, but it is not on our radar,” Will Wright said. ” Most Americans aren’t aware, they aren’t informed about the extent of our involvement in Africa.”
Niger and other African countries want U.S. training and expertise to deal with security threats, but they do not want a large, visible American presence.
Until the American deaths in Niger, the U.S. military presence there received little attention.
The New York Times reported that on Dec. 6, two months after the October ambush, another group of Green Berets and Nigerien forces killed 11 militants in a shootout. The U.S. military did not announce the fighting at the time. But the Times reported it last month, describing it as one of 10 previously undisclosed clashes in West Africa since 2015.
Legendary singer Aretha Franklin dies at age 76
Legendary singer Aretha Franklin has died.
The 76-year-old Queen of Soul was said to be “surrounded” by her closest friends and family in recent days, after battling extensive health problems in recent years.
The legendary singer was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and delivered her most recent performance at the Elton John AIDS Foundation party in New York last November.
This is a Breaking News Story.
1954 – Sings her first solo at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.
1956 – Along with her two sisters, performs backup on her father’s gospel recording for Gotham Records.
1960 – Leaves Detroit for New York, signs with Columbia Records and releases first album, “The Great Aretha Franklin.”
1967 – Leaves Columbia Records after an unsuccessful attempt at developing a jazz style; signs with Atlantic Records; wins Grammy Award Best R&B Recording for “Respect.”
1967-1974 – Wins a total of ten Grammy Awards.
January 20, 1977 – Performs “God Bless America” at the inauguration gala of President Jimmy Carter.
1980 – Appears in the movie “The Blues Brothers” and performs the song “Think”; leaves Atlantic Records for Arista Records.
1981 – Wins Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Hold On I’m Comin’.”
1985 – Wins Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Freeway Of Love.”
January 3, 1987 – Is the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
1987 – Wins two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for “Aretha” and Best R&B Performance by a Duo, with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).”
1988 – Wins Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance, Female for “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.”
1991 – Receives the Grammy Legend Award.
January 20, 1993 – Performs “I Dreamed a Dream” at the inauguration ball of President Bill Clinton.
1994 – Receives the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the youngest recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor at that time.
1997 – Performs an aria from Puccini’s La Boheme at the wedding of Vice-President Al Gore’s daughter, Karenna.
February 6, 1998 – Reprises her roll of Mrs. Murphy from “The Blues Brothers” in the sequel “The Blues Brothers 2000.”
February 25, 1998 – Substitutes for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti at the Grammy Awards performing “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini, unrehearsed.
September 1, 1999 – Publishes an autobiography “Aretha: From These Roots,” where she discusses her private and personal life for the first time.
September 22, 1999 – Is named a winner of the National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment for the Arts.
2003 – Wins Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for “Wonderful.”
March 2004 – Is hospitalized and released for allergic reaction to antibiotics.
2004 – Starts her own record label, Aretha’s Records.
2005 – Wins Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for “A House Is Not A Home.”
November 5, 2005 – Is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
2006 – After Franklin points out that no Motown talent was appearing in the Detroit Super Bowl halftime show, the NFL asks her to sing the national anthem along with Aaron Neville prior to the game.
2007 – Wins Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance for “Never Gonna Break My Faith,” shared with Mary J. Blige.
February 10, 2008 – Is Grammy’s 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year.
February 14, 2008 – Receives the NAACP Vanguard Award at the annual Image Awards ceremony.
January 20, 2009 – Performs “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
February 2010 – A Snickers commercial starring Franklin and Liza Minnelli airs for the first time.
July 27, 2010 – Appears on stage with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on piano, in Philadelphia, to raise money for charity. Rice is a classical pianist. They perform individually and together, classical, pop and patriotic selections.
August 1, 2010 – Falls in her home, breaking two ribs. The incident forces her to cancel concert appearances for August.
February 25, 2011 – During an interview with Wendy Williams, Franklin reveals a loss of 85 lbs. The ailment that resulted in surgery in December remains undisclosed and a topic of conversation she dismisses with the comment, “I’ve left that behind, I’m feeling wonderful.”
May 3, 2011 – Releases new album, “Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love.”
October 8, 2014 – Achieves a milestone in music history by becoming the first female to earn her 100th hit on Billboard’s Hot R&B song chart with “Rolling in the Deep (The Aretha Version).”
October 21, 2014 – Releases a new album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.”
March 5, 2015 – Performs live on the Motown themed episode of American Idol in Detroit.
February 7, 2017 – Franklin announces she will retire from performing in concert after the release of one more album. “I am retiring this year, she told a local television station in Detroit. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert.”
Car crashes into security barriers outside Houses Of Parliament
Kremlin “pleased” with Helsinki summit, US and Western intelligence assesses
Russian officials were “pleased” with the Helsinki summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, US and Western intelligence agencies have found, according to two intelligence sources with knowledge of the assessments.
The assessments, based on a broad range of intelligence, indicate that the Kremlin believes the July 16 summit delivered a better outcome than it had expected, but that Moscow is perplexed that Trump is not delivering more Russia-friendly policies in its aftermath.
The intelligence sources say the Russians were particularly satisfied with the press conference the two leaders gave in Helsinki after Trump and Putin met for about two hours without staff and accompanied only by translators. In the 45-minute press conference, Trump discredited US intelligence and American policies more broadly, saying “the United States has been foolish” about ties with Russia, a country that has engaged in ongoing attacks on US democracy.
A spokesperson for the Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, and the White House did not respond to request for comment.
The administration’s decision last week to impose sanctions on Russia for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter left Russian officials puzzled that the President is not delivering more favorable policies.
Trump has repeatedly called for warmer relations with Moscow, but the Kremlin is neglecting to factor in the considerable role that Congress and others play in US policy-making, a Western intelligence official said.
Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s comments last week reflected the deflated Russian hopes for improved ties with Washington or at least less punitive US policies.
“President Putin said in Helsinki that Russia still has hopes for the creation of a constructive relationship with Washington…We are sorry that often we are not met with cooperation on this account,” Peskov said Aug. 9 in a regular press call with reporters.
Peskov’s comments contrasted sharply with the evaluation Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered immediately after the summit, when he said that the talks had been “better than super.”
Trump’s performance in Helsinki sparked unusually public criticism, even from within his own party.
The administration’s decision to impose the sanctions followed a July 26 letter from GOP Congressman Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging the White House to comply with a law requiring the US to levy sanctions against countries that violate the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.
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