During a seven-month investigation into the attack, led by officials from the Pentagon’s Africa Command, the Special Operations general in charge of American commandos in Africa issued a series of orders that roughly mirrored the actions in Somalia, putting in place stringent guidelines to ensure that those on the ground had the proper support before leaving on a mission.
The lower-level commands in Somalia and Niger, however, are different. In West Africa, Special Operations forces are overseen by Army Special Forces, while the Naval Special Warfare Command, often known as the Navy SEALs, leads operations in Somalia.
The attack on Friday came toward the end of a dayslong operation in which a team of Green Berets from the Thirrd Special Forces Group — the same unit that fought in the ambush in Niger — worked to clear several villages from Shabab control alongside 800 local troops from Somalia and Kenya. The American team, which numbered about 25, including civil affairs and intelligence personnel, had also helped with the construction of a combat outpost.
According to Maj. Casey Osborne, a spokesman for the Africa Command’s Special Operations branch in Germany, the enemy attack was quick, giving the armed reconnaissance aircraft overhead little time to find the militants firing at the Americans. According to one military official familiar with the attack, the Special Forces soldiers had less than a month left on their deployment.
The Shabab said in a post translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremist message boards, that its fighters had attacked a joint American-Somali base near Kismayo, mounting what it called a “fierce attack.”
Over the past year, the Pentagon has shown renewed concerns about the Shabab, which was responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on African soil when it struck a popular shopping mall in 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people.
American military officials worry that the group is growing once more, even after losing much of its territory in Somalia in recent years and being targeted by American drone strikes.
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