Four Americans and Five Nigerien soldiers were killed during the attack on 4 October, which also left two Americans wounded after what was supposed to have only been a routine patrol. Approximately 50 members of what is being called the "Islamic State in the Greater Sahara", or ISGS, used a combination of explosives and heavy arms to attack the troops, and it's being reported that it was only through a French air intervention two hours later that the anti-terrorist forces were able to survive. Unfortunately, one American was left behind in a flagrant violation of US military tradition, only to have his dead body turn up a few days later after it was found by local villagers.
Many questions abound over what happened, and the US itself seems to not even be sure of the exact timeline itself. Moreover, many Americans are now angrily questioning what their countrymen were doing in this desolate landlocked West African country anyhow, and conflicting reports have emerged over Trump's condolence calls to the grieving families, further exacerbating the scandalous nature of what occurred. As a brief background, the US military is assisting French and Nigerien anti-terrorist forces as part of a larger region-wide campaign in the Sahara, one which took prominence in 2013 following Paris' military intervention in Mali. Roughly two-thirds of Niger's western neighbor was taken over by terrorists after they hijacked a Tuareg uprising in 2012 to establish a proto-"Islamic State", and the Libyan-linked destabilization of Mali has clearly come to have regional implications in the years since as evidenced by what just happened in Niger.
Trump's political opponents in Congress and the Mainstream Media are desperate to turn this into his "Benghazi", framing it as though the Presidential Administration had the power to avoid this tragedy but refused to act for unknown reasons. From what is known so far, that's not an accurate way of portraying events, but it nevertheless energizes the anti-Trump base who are also furious with what's been reported about the President's interactions with the slain soldiers' families. Whether a manufactured scandal or not, what's being called "Trump's Benghazi" might turn out to be a very real headache for the rest of his presidency.
Aaron Chiroma, a freelance writer and analyst from Nigeria with a specialty in African affairs and geopolitics, and Joaquin Flores, Editor-in-Chief of Fort Russ and director of the Center for Syncretic Studies, commented on the issue.
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