With the controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s call to a grieving military widow, lost in many of the conversations was where the soldier actually was stationed. He was in Niger, a landlocked country in western Africa with over 20 million citizens. Few Americans knew the U.S. military had any presence there.
Senators still have unanswered questions. The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee was briefed by two top Pentagon officials about U.S. military presence in West Africa.
The Pentagon’s delay in their briefing to Congress “has been a source of frustration,” said Senator Gary Peters, who sits on the Armed Services Committee. “Chairman [John] McCain has also been outspoken, that we haven’t had the kind of information we need about West Africa.”
“Certainly the American people have the right to know when U.S. forces are being used in potentially combat situations like we saw in Niger,” said Peters. “I think most Americans are not aware of what’s happening West Africa. Quite frankly, I think a lot of my colleagues in Congress don’t fully appreciate what’s happening in West Africa right now.”
Senator Peters is concerned that the attack in Niger, an action by ISIS, is indicative of a broader trend of terrorism. Peters, who spent this past summer in Nigeria, Niger’s neighbor to the south, noted that Boko Haram and ISIS have been involved in attacks against Nigerian citizens and its military.
Ultimately, Senator Peters believes Congress should revisit the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), a 2001 law that gave the president great authority to use the military against those responsible for the September 11th attacks. Congress has repeatedly reauthorized the AUMF over the past 16 years. “We can’t just have an open blank check for military use around the world,” said Peters.
Listen above for the full conversation.