Inside The New American Way of War

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from TIME Magazine,

How America is failing Its Most Elite Fighters.

When news of the Oct. 4 ambush broke, the reaction in Washington was shocked surprise. What were Special Forces doing in Niger in the first place? And why did the U.S. military have a dozen of its most elite, highly trained soldiers in a country that most Americans couldn’t find on a map and where the U.S. is not known to be at war?

As details emerged, the embarrassment of ignorance spread. The target of the operation, Ibrahim Dondou Chefou, code-named “Naylor Road” by U.S. intelligence, had been present days earlier at a high-level meeting of regional leaders of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, according to intelligence and military sources who shared details of the operation with TIME. But the question was how a supposedly low-risk mission to search his abandoned campsite had resulted in the deaths of four service members. On Capitol Hill, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York and national-security hawk Lindsey Graham of South Carolina openly admitted that they did not know about the deployment to Niger, let alone that it had grown in recent years to 800 U.S. troops. Nor did it appear fully supported: no U.S. military aircraft was available to transport the service members from the scene of the ambush to their base in the Nigerien capital of Niamey. Instead, the Pentagon relied on French helicopters and a San Marcos, Texas–based contractor, Berry Aviation, military sources tell TIME. Many Americans learned of the incident only after President Donald Trump’s public feud with the widow of one of the killed soldiers.

The little noticed buildup in Niger is just a snapshot of the expanding worldwide deployment of U.S. commandos. At any given moment, 8,000 of the country’s most elite forces, including Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force, Army Special Forces and others, are operating around the globe. In 2001, that number was 2,900.

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