Officially, the US military never leaves troops behind. Secretary of Defense James Mattis even said literally this last week, in denying that a soldier might’ve been left behind in the October 4 Niger ambush, in which four US special forces were killed.
As details continue to emerge on the incident, however, it appears increasingly certain that Mattis hadn’t told the truth, with officials now saying that when French helicopters evacuated the US forces, they had lost contact with four US troops, and only evacuated seven out of 11 in the unit.
Hours later, they managed to return to recover the bodies of the three soldiers initially reported killed. The fourth soldier wasn’t found for another two days. That the troops left without contact with the four makes it uncertain if some might’ve been alive at the time, and died abandoned on the field.
That would obviously be scandalous if true, so officials are dodging the possibility by continuing to insist that they don’t ever leave people behind, despite mounting evidence that they definitely did leave people behind.
The Niger incident has fueled controversy and prompted numerous questions from Congress, not only about the ambush but about how the US military managed to get 1,000 troops into Niger and conducting “routine” operations on the ground without telling the Armed Services Committees or informing President Trump.