In an act of proper leadership, Secretary of Defence James Mattis has decided to exonerate the Special Forces Captain who led the botched Niger operation that resulted in the deaths of four Americans last year, and to instead hold accountable the senior leadership. Reports indicate that Colonel Brad Moses and Lieutenant Colonel David Painter, respectively commanders of the 3rd Special Forces Group and of the 2nd Battalion at the time of the ambush, are facing punishment.

The initial after-action report (AAR) of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) portrayed Army Captain Michael Perozeni, ODA 3212’s team leader, who was wounded during the ambush, as one of those responsible for the botched operation in the Tongo Tongo, Niger. More specifically, the report criticised the ODA’s leadership for providing insufficient training to their Nigerien partner force and for not conducting enough battle drills. Moreover, they also accused them of providing a false mission plan: instead of stating that they would be conducting a Direct Action (DA) mission against a local terrorist leader, they stated that they would be meeting with local elders.

Consequently, he and his team sergeant were issued with letters of reprimand — the Army handed out six letters in total. Reprimanded alongside CPT Perozeni and his Team Sergeant were the commanding officer, a Chief Warrant Officer, and the Sergeant Major of A Company, Second Battalion 3rd, Special Forces Group, to which ODA 3212 belonged. Crucially, however, the senior officers who approved and oversaw the mission weren’t disciplined in any way.  The only senior officer to be reprimanded was Major General Marcus Hicks, USAF, who was the chief of the U.S. Africa Special Operations Command (SOCAFRICA), who, however, was retiring anyway.

In the military, a letter of reprimand is a career-ender, even if it isn’t followed by additional disciplinary measures — it has to be permanent, however. Officers and enlisted men with such a stain on the record are passed over for promotion.