May 10, 2018

Kaine Statement On Niger Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, released the following statement after a Pentagon report outlined multiple failures that led to the deaths of four American troops in Niger last year:

“Today’s report about the tragic deaths of American and Nigerien troops in Niger last October is deeply troubling. Our troops were in Niger to ‘train and equip’ the Nigerien military. They embarked on a mission described as consistent with that limited purpose, but it was actually a ‘kill or capture’ combat mission designed to target a high value person believed to be present in the region.

“Why does it matter that the mission was inaccurately presented as the more benign ‘train and equip’ mission?

  • The troops’ level of training was appropriate for ‘train and equip’ efforts in Niger but insufficient at that point for a ‘kill or capture’ combat mission.
  • The benign characterization of the mission helped lead to a situation where the troops lacked support—e.g., reconnaissance, armed aircraft, medical evacuation resources— for the more serious nature of the actual mission. The troops were surprised and overrun by a larger combatant force despite heroic efforts to defend themselves.
  • The benign characterization of the mission meant that there was no scrutiny of whether there was appropriate legal authority for targeting the subject.

“Had the mission been properly characterized from the beginning, I believe the chain of command would have prohibited it, and we may have prevented the loss of four heroic servicemembers. That the mission was not accurately characterized represents a failing at multiple levels.

“I acknowledge the thorough nature of the investigation and commend the Secretary of Defense for the recommendations contained in the report released today. This tragic incident demonstrates again the need for congressional oversight over where, and against whom, we are conducting combat operations. It is time for Congress to provide a more focused AUMF for action against non-state actors and exercise rigorous review to ensure that such an authorization is not exceeded or violated.”

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