When many Americans woke up one morning in October to discover that two US Special Forces soldiers and one support soldier were killed in an ambush in Niger, they were incredulous.  Why are American troops in Niger?  How is Niger important to the United States strategically?  How could our highly trained Special Forces soldiers be killed in an ambush during what was supposed to be a low-risk mission?  This article will answer these questions in detail.

3rd Special Forces Group had been in Niger for years by 2017, and 10th Special Forces Group had been deploying there before them.  Historically, the land-locked African country was more of a French area of operations.  While the United States military has a global mandate, the French take a more localized approach, focusing on their former colonies in West Africa.  Some see this as a continuation of the French-Afrique relationship, a kind of unseemly mafia-like relationship between African states and their former colonial masters.  Be that as it may, the French Foreign Legion has been very active in this theater, combating Al Qaeda-linked militants in Mali while other French soldiers maintain a presence in nearby countries like Ghana and Senegal.

Many were shocked to learn that American Special Operations Forces were operating in Africa, but this is far from anything new.  JSOC’s Intelligence Support Activity (Task Force Orange) has been operating in Mali, drone programs known as Aztec Archer and Creek Sand had been implemented, SEAL Team Six operators were in and out of embassies around the continent not to mention executing direct action raids in Somalia.  Delta Force had been deployed to Libya on numerous occasions, as have Special Forces and MARSOC.  AFRICOM and SOC-Africa have had dozens of on-going train, advise, assist missions ongoing across Africa.

Why Niger?