Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has come up with a new gimmick for getting invited on CNN. After exploiting the death of one soldier killed in an attack in Niger, she decided that if exploiting one soldier made her famous, exploiting the deaths of all the soldiers would make her even more famous.
Wilson has taken to calling the attack, “Mr. Trump’s Benghazi.” And she’s close. American soldiers died in Niger for the same reasons that Americans died in Benghazi. Both were fallout from the Arab Spring.
It wasn’t President Trump who deployed our soldiers to Niger. That was Obama’s doing.
Congresswoman Wilson complained that they, “didn’t have appropriate weapons where they were" and that "they had trucks that were not armored trucks."
She is welcome to take up those objections with Obama.
President Trump has been loudly criticized by Democrats for being too aggressive. It wasn’t his policy to have soldiers in Niger without a direct combat role. It was Obama’s policy to put American soldiers in harm’s way without going on the offensive. And not just in Niger. American soldiers in Iraq and Syria were put in the same strange situation of being deployed in a war zone without a combat mission.
Except to defend themselves.
Or as Obama put it, “The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.”
They were supposed to be playing defense, not offense.
Of all the accusations hurled at President Trump, a lack of aggressiveness isn’t one of them. It isn’t his policy to deploy soldiers without a direct combat mission. That’s the opposite of his policy.
But Obama wanted to avoid triggering Islamic terrorists by fighting them too aggressively. And being in a war zone without a combat role provided the anti-war politician with plausible deniability.
Obama could take credit for ending all the wars (he officially ended the Iraq War twice even before the rise of ISIS) while still keeping soldiers deployed in war zones. But soldiers in a war zone without an official combat role are far more vulnerable and more likely to be underequipped for a firefight.
American forces in Niger were there providing “advice and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terror operations”. “Advise and Assist” missions were a staple of Obama era counterterrorism. Embedding American troops within local forces that may be unreliable or compromised carries obvious risks. But the Obama doctrine put public relations ahead of the lives of American soldiers. That doctrine cost countless lives in Afghanistan. And now it may have cost four more American lives in Niger.
The deaths in Niger also had deeper origins in Obama’s pro-Islamist policies and alliances.
Our forces were reportedly targeting the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. ISGS, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, is another Arab Spring baby. Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, its leader, had formerly served as the spokesman for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) which was a splinter group of Al Qaeda. MUJAO was one of the Jihadist movements empowered by Obama’s illegal invasion of Libya. In the wake of the Libyan disaster, Jihadists seized control of large parts of Mali.
The French took the lead in fighting the Islamist forces. Obama led from behind by deploying American personnel to support the French effort. And that’s still the case. In Niger, we’re there to assist the larger French force. And so when our soldiers came under fire, they had to rely on the French for air support and evacuation. Those are the consequences of Obama ‘leading from behind’.
Our forces were outnumbered. French air support proved unable to offer useful help, but did succeed in evacuating the survivors. And the ambush raises questions about whether ISGS got lucky, or whether it was a setup. The Democrats suddenly seem very eager to find out exactly what happened, but whatever happened was due to policies and programs put into place by their own leader.
Obama’s Arab Spring regime change project and the illegal Libyan regime change operation that followed unleashed regional Islamist aspirations. Mali nearly fell because of Libya. American soldiers in Niger were killed by Islamist terrorists from a group led by the spokesman for that invasion.
But it’s not just about ISGS. One reason we’re in Niger is because we can’t be in Nigeria.
Boko Haram’s Jihadists have killed thousands of Christians in Nigeria. While the genocide continued, Obama officials worked hard to obstruct any effort to name Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization. Only when the mass kidnapping of girls led to the #BringBackOurGirls awareness campaign, did some of the more overt obstructionism by Obama and his political cronies stop. But it certainly didn’t end.
Obama Inc. repeatedly hectored Nigeria for being too tough on Boko Haram. It refused to waive the Leahy amendment which meant that the United States (and even Israel) couldn’t sell weapons to Nigeria and had a great deal of difficulty in training Nigerian forces. While we couldn’t be in Nigeria because its soldiers insisted on killing Boko Haram terrorists instead of locking them up in a Cuban resort and supplying them with all the Harry Potter novels they could want, we could be in Niger.
And so we’re in Niger.
The Nigerien (as opposed to Nigerian) military hadn’t rubbed Obama the wrong way. And so the American presence in Niger grew. We now have some 800 soldiers there and a sizable drone base.
Deploying large numbers of personnel into a terror zone without a plan to take the fight to the enemy is a bad idea. When the Nigerien forces came under attack by as many as fifty fighters with RPGs and heavy machine guns, our soldiers were left exposed, with no one to rely on except the French. They were there officially for training and surveillance, but they were on the front lines instead.
Congresswoman Wilson and other Democrats would like to blame President Trump for the deaths in Niger. But the trouble in Niger has Obama’s fingerprints all over it from the Arab Spring to the “Advice and Assist” missions that aren’t technically combat missions, but often incorporate combat anyway.
The ambiguity was there to cover Obama’s fundament. It’s time to scrap it along with the rest of his policies. The Arab Spring genie may be hard to put back in the box and we need to seriously think about what we’re doing in places like Niger and whether we have a plan to win that isn’t dependent on the locals. Obama didn’t. Instead his counterterrorism policy marked time. From Africa to Afghanistan, it wasn’t about victory, but an inoffensive containment. And that meant not being too aggressive.
If we are going to have forces in Niger or any other war zone, they should have air support and the widest latitude for defending themselves. President Trump’s policies didn’t kill four Americans in Niger. Obama’s appeasement of Islamists and the anti-war left exposed American soldiers to harm.
If you want to look for the bullet that killed those men, look no further than Obama’s Cairo speech.
Their deaths should be a reminder that appeasing Islamists always ends in war and death. If the Democrats don’t want war and death, they should end their backing for Islamists and empower our soldiers to defend themselves.